History and Culture
Justice for Pamana: Saving the Philippine Eagle
Choose Philippines | Aug 20, 2015
News broke out yesterday that the Philippine eagle "Pamana" was found dead last August 16 at the Mt. Hamiguitan Range in Davao Oriental where she was freed on June 12, 2015, Independence Day. Necropsy at the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) in Davao City showed a 5 mm bullet hole on the right chest of the bird. A tiny metal fragment believed to be from a shattered gun pellet was also isolated from the carcass.
Who is Pamana and why does this matter?
Philippine Eagle: Fast Facts about the National Bird
Scientific Name: Pithecophaga jefferyi
Filipino Name: bánog (from the Manobo language)
Common Names: Philippine eagle, Monkey-eating eagle
Status: Critically endangered
Banog can be found only in the Philippines. With a wingspan of two meters (the broadest in the world), a height of one meter, and a weight of four to seven kilograms, it is considered as one of the three largest and most powerful eagles in the world. To add to that, the Philippine eagle is the world's only blue-eyed bird of prey.
Genetic studies confirmed the rarity of the Philippine eagle's DNA sequence as compared to the other species of large eagles like the Crested Eagle, Harpy Eagle, and the New Guinea Harpy Eagle.
This unique breed takes some time to reproduce. Breeding season takes about eight months (July to February) and a male eagle courts the female eagle for about a month. Philippine eagles are also known to form a monogamous bond and a female lays an egg only once every two years.
With these restrictions in its reproduction, it doesn't help that the unrelentless shooting and capture continue in our forest reserves. At least one Philippine eagle is killed every year because of shooting. Deforestation is also big threat to its survival.
To date, there are only about 400 pairs remaining in the wild.
The Philippine eagle was declared as the national bird on July 15, 1995 through Proclamation No. 615 by former President Fidel Ramos.
A Legacy's Fight for Survival
Roughly translated in Filipino as "legacy" or "heritage," Pamana is one of the Philippine eagles rescued by PEC in April 2012.
Wounded by a gunshot on its left breast, the less-than-a-year-old female bird was found perched on a tree near a creek in Iligan City. The captor recanted his story about the found eagle when he was requested by CENRO Iligan to turn it over to authorities. Four days later, the local turned over the bird to CENRO Iligan and was retrieved for admission at the PEC Davao City on the same day.
During the initial treatment, a second gunshot wound was found embedded under the skin of its left wing near the elbow joint. Colonies of fungi were also seen inside its body cavity. Oral medications, fungal prophylaxis, and vitamins were included in its ration.
The bird underwent rehabilitation at the Center. She was alternated between small and medium-sized enclosures to give the bird space to exercise its wings, "mock electricity pole" aversion training, and simulation with live prey. Activities by the keeper was kept to a minimum to prevent mal-imprinting.
Prior to its release into the wild, the Philippine eagle—still caged—was brought to the site for acclimatization.
Release Into a Heritage Site
Pamana's new home was the lowland forests of Mt. Hamiguitan in San Isidro, Davao Oriental. It has a forest cover of 30,000 hectares and is considered both a UNESCO World and an ASEAN Heritage Site. Supposedly, this means that the mountain range is legally protected.
It is also home to at least one eagle pair and its offsprings. Had Pamana's release been successful, she could have started the reestablishment of gene flow in the isolated eagle families trapped in the forest islands. Had Pamana survived, her bloodline of eagles from Lanao del Norte would have mixed with the bloodline of eagles from Davao Oriental. Wildlife genetics predict that this could have been great news for the eagle population.
The End to a Much-Awaited Freedom
Since its release, Pamana was closely monitored through radio signals from a miniature transmitter harnessed on its back and a GPS satelitte transmitter. Telemetry showed that she settled at the northeastern forest roughly 1.3 km from the release site.
However, the signal received on August 10 showed that the transmitter unit has not moved for at least six hours. After days of searching, Pamana's carcass was found near a creek. She was shot dead by illegal hunters.
The critically endangered species cannot be kept inside the cage but it seems that they cannot be released into the wild either.
How do you want this story to end?
(Information from Philippine Eagle Foundation .)