Saving PH Eagles is in Our Hands (Last of 2 parts)

Renowned veterinarian Vandenbroeck says if people don't work together to prevent habitat loss, we will all face PH Eagle extinction
Renowned veterinarian Vandenbroeck said if people don't work together to prevent habitat loss, we will all face Philippine Eagle extinction.
Renowned veterinarian Vandenbroeck said if people don't work together to prevent habitat loss, we will all face Philippine Eagle extinction.PEF

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Renowned veterinarian Vandenbroeck said if people don't work together to prevent habitat loss, we will all face Philippine Eagle extinction.
Saving PH Eagles is in Our Hands (1st of 2 parts)

ACCORDING to experienced veterinarian Dr. Bayani Vandenbroeck, continuing to raise awareness is central to the successful preservation of the Philippine Eagle.

“The first thing people can do is to share the stories. Secondly, people need to be aware that these birds are better off left untouched. If you see them — and there is a higher chance you will see these birds nowadays (because they are closer to human settlements) — hold off the urge to try and capture it, and push for habitat conservation,” Vandenbroeck said.

You have the humans that need the farms versus wildlife that needs the forests, but that also comes with the ecological factor. It’s all interconnected because with the forests we keep the rivers as a source of water. That’s what needs to be taught to kids, especially in school.

Doc Bayani meticulously checks up on a Philippine Eagle.
Doc Bayani meticulously checks up on a Philippine Eagle.PEF

The reason they’re here (in rescue centers) is because they have nowhere else to go. It all comes back to preventing habitat loss.”

After their period of monitoring and quarantine at Vandenbroeck’s clinic, the eagles will transfer to the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao.

The Center, overseen by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), offers hope for the Philippine Eagle and other endangered species of indigenous birds and animals. They have a successful breeding program, with 29 eaglets raised over the course of the program to date.

Paul Christian Taylor, who oversees the education programs at PEF, explained how the breeding program is making a positive difference when it comes to improving on the number of Philippine Eagles, which is currently extremely tentative with only 400 pairs left in the wild. 

He said, “Usually in the wild, the eagles produce one egg every two years because they need to rear the chick, train it, feed it, and ensure the baby eaglet is independent enough to leave the nest. But here, as a conservation facility, we actually produce one egg per year (per enrolled eagle), so we actually cut down the production time.

“That’s a central purpose of this facility; to speed up the breeding process. The eaglets here are the product of both artificial insemination and natural breeding.”

Dominic Tadena, a conservationist working at PEF, added, “Our breeding birds in the program are from rescue. They are rehabilitated and retained, because, unfortunately, many of them are not fit to be released back into the wild.

“Instead of the eagle being left in a cage for the rest of their life, they make an active contribution to the breeding program. Then, we attempt to release the hatched birds into the wild.

Dr. Bayani Vandenbroeck and his team conduct an annual check up on a Philippine Eagle which is part of the breeding program at Philippine Eagle Center.
Dr. Bayani Vandenbroeck and his team conduct an annual check up on a Philippine Eagle which is part of the breeding program at Philippine Eagle Center.PEF

The replenishment of the Philippine Eagle wild population is a painstaking and lengthy process. PEF oversees all arms of the process, from rescue and conservation, to education and awareness.

“We try to do it as orderly as possible,” Dominic said. “We see if it is viable for the Philippine Eagle to survive (in the wild), whether there is availability of its necessities, and whether that territory is already occupied by an eagle. Furthermore, there is a whole awareness campaign with the communities in which the eagle is released.

Philippine Eagle Center is a major tourist spot in Mindanao, welcoming visitors from across the country and the globe. They also offer educational workshops for schools on-site, with many students inspired to get involved with fundraising or volunteering.

It is no surprise the Philippine Eagle Center attracts people from far and wide. Immediately, you are struck by the blissful serenity of its luscious location on the edge of the forest, just outside of Calinan, Davao City.

The various varieties of bird and eagle situated at the Center are breathtaking to see in the flesh, as opposed to virtual mediums such as video, which is the closest many people will get to meeting the Eagle.

One of the most lucrative income generators for the Philippine Eagle Center is their “Raptors in Flight” project. Adults and children alike can witness the birds take to the sky in their flight zone.

“This is where we do the enrichment program”, Paul explained. “Volunteer keepers will enroll for a number of months in order to handle the birds properly. If the bird is in the enclosure all the time, they may have a sedentary lifestyle, so what we do, with the help of the bird handlers, is to allow the birds to fly in the fly zone so they can exercise.

“It’s not your normal bird show — we don’t teach them any tricks! We just allow them to fly, so visitors can have a deeper appreciation and understanding of how these birds fly in the wild.

The dedicated veterinarians conduct an x-ray to a Philippine Eagle, which was rescued from the wild after tragically being shot by hunters.
The dedicated veterinarians conduct an x-ray to a Philippine Eagle, which was rescued from the wild after tragically being shot by hunters.PEF

Visitors can even meet Viggo, the Philippine Eagle that proudly dons the 1,000-peso banknote. A sharp-eyed visitor snapped the photogenic Viggo. In 2021, the picture was selected to be used on the new bill. However, the feathers-erect pose Viggo displays on the crisp blue note is not necessarily desirable all of the time. It is in fact a sign the bird is angry and provoked. Nonetheless, Viggo has adopted celebrity status now he is a Philippine poster boy.

The work of Dr. Bayani and the Philippine Eagle Foundation is as important as it has ever been, with another eagle being rescued after being shot as recently as the 24th of February.

More information about visiting the Philippine Eagle Center, as well as sponsoring and fundraising for the eagles is available on their website here: https://www.philippineeaglefoundation.org/. Ben Sturt, Contributor

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