Philippines Eagles on loan to Singapore for conservation
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - May 23, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is lending a pair of the country’s national bird to Singapore for conservation amid its continued vulnerability to impacts of environmental conditions.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has inked an agreement with Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) for the loan and conservation of a pair of critically endangered Philippine Eagles.

Raptors Geothermica and Sambisig will be brought to Jurong Bird Park on June 4. The 20.2-hectare park is Asia’s largest bird park that is home to close to 3,500 birds across 400 species, of which 20 percent is threatened.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the DENR aims to stimulate international support for a conservation program for the Philippine Eagle, along with a biosecurity measure against risks arising from catastrophic events such as disease outbreaks.

“Sending Geothermica and Sambisig to Singapore acts as a biosecurity measure to ensure the survival of the species and as a fallback population in the event of catastrophic events like disease outbreaks or extreme natural calamities taking place in their Philippine habitats,” Cimatu said.

Known as the largest of the extant eagles in the world in terms of length and wing surface, the Philippine Eagle is listed as “critically endangered” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and the country’s National List of Threatened Species.

Last year, the DENR issued a circular that lays down the protocol, which allows the keeping of captive populations of the Philippine Eagle in qualified institutions for conservation, scientific research and public education.

It marked the first time that the Philippines, through the DENR, entered into an agreement of its kind with a foreign institution.

Under the agreement, the DENR commits to send the raptors to Singapore, issue necessary permits for the transportation to the facility of WRS, and monitor the birds annually.

The WRS, for its part, assumes full responsibility in ensuring the proper care, handling, maintenance and security of the loaned Philippine Eagles in its facility.

It has committed that the Philippine Eagles, including their genetic materials and any derivatives, remain the sole property of the Philippines. It will also submit an annual report on the status and development of the birds.

Both Geothermica and Sambisig, aged 15 and 17 years old, respectively, are products of the conservation breeding program of the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City.

WRS deputy chief executive officer Cheng Wen-Haur said there is strong synergy between both countries to focus on protecting animals, particularly threatened Southeast Asian species.

“We can actively contribute in a greater capacity to raise awareness of the threats that the wild cousins of these eagles face in the wild, even as we continue the work of breeding to fight extinction,” he added.

Experts estimate that there are fewer than 400 pairs of Philippine Eagles in the wild. Hunting and loss of forest habitat remain the primary threats to its survival.

Because of its small population, the Philippine Eagle is vulnerable to environmental conditions such as natural calamities and disease outbreaks.

“Being an iconic species and one requiring vast forest as habitat, the conservation of the Philippine Eagle continues to be one of the rallying points in setting aside the remaining forest areas of this country as protected area,” Cimatu said. – With Rhodina Villanueva

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