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2 Rescued Philippine Eagles Released In Leyte Forest

2 Rescued Philippine Eagles Released In Leyte Forest

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Two Philippine Eagles rescued in Mindanao have found a new home in the forest of Leyte Island as part of the first translocation project of these critically endangered raptors.

The two eagles, named Carlito and Uswag, were released around noon on Friday on the outskirts of upland Kagnana village, which is considered their new safe haven.

Officials led by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga and villagers applauded as the two eagles spread their wings and started exploring the Anonang-Lobi Mountain Range, a 60,000-hectare Key Biodiversity Area.

“We congratulate the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) for their excellent work in reintroduction. This is the work of many hands, including the community. The community needs a very strong foundation for conservation areas,” Loyzaga said in her speech.

Kagbana village chief Rodolfo Ecija, 60, said he is so happy to see the Philippine Eagles again after 12 years.

“I saw the eagles near our community three times before they disappeared when Super Typhoon Yolanda struck in 2013. We are glad that they are back, and it is our responsibility to protect them,” Ecija told the Philippine News Agency.

The village official and 19 other men are now employed as forest guards, ensuring that no one will hunt them and no one will destroy their natural habitat.

Mayor Juanito Renomeron said the construction of an access road to Kagbana has opened opportunities in the village for research related to environmental conservation.

“We are proud that we are the very first release site for Philippine Eagles outside Mindanao. We are looking forward to seeing these birds flying and reproducing in our forest,” Renomeron said in an interview.

The PEF said the pioneering raptor Uswag (male) was rescued on Mt. Apo in Davao City in 2023, while Carlito (female) was found in Trento, Agusan del Sur, and rehabilitated in 2022.

The female eagle Carlito got its male name from Carl Balita, a renowned educator who adopted the bird. A few months after the raptor received its name, experts found the eagle to be female.

“I was asked if I wanted to change the name. I said, why change the name, and what’s in the name? What is important is that we protect and conserve this eagle, whatever the bird’s gender and identity,” Balita told officials and locals during the release ceremonies.

Kagbana, some 37 kilometers away from the town center, is the most remote community in Leyte province. It has a population of nearly 400 people, including 58 members of the Mamanwa Tribe.

The PEF and partners have been preparing the community for over a decade to ensure that released eagles will be protected.

Jayson Ibañez, PEF director for operations, said they identified the mountain range as the new Philippine Eagle Conservation Site, and they are eyeing the release of 18 eagles, or nine pairs, in the next five years.

“Any rescued eagles in Mindanao will be automatically transferred to Leyte. We will also get healthy young birds and translocate them to Leyte to repopulate the place,” Ibañez said.

The PEF monitored a pair of Philippine Eagles in the forest of Kagbana in 2007, and their presence was detected until 2012.

He believed that the birds perished when Super Typhoon Yolanda struck central Philippines in 2013.

“We hope the release can open opportunities for scientific research that will benefit communities. We want to strengthen the green jobs option in Kagbana, replacing hunting and collecting wildlife,” Ibañez added.

The Philippine Eagle is one of the rarest eagles in the world and one of the largest and most powerful among forest raptors.

They are also listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with an estimated number of only 400 pairs left in the wild.

The eagle translocation project is supported by the Rotary Club of Central Tacloban City, the Forest Foundation Philippines, the local government unit of Burauen, the Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptors Conservation Fund, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Energy Development Corporation, the Australian Embassy in Manila, the Insular Life Foundation, Mandai Nature, the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, and the Central Maharlika Eagles Club. (PNA)