Public’s help to save PHL eagle asked

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THE BIODIVERSITY Management Bureau (BMB), a government agency primarily tasked to save the endemic Philippine eagle from extinction (scientific name 'Pithecophagajefferyi'), is looking for more groups and volunteers to assist them in their undertaking.

"We need all our citizens' help as the campaign can't stop," said BMB's Philippine eagle focal person Mari Almeda, echoing the agency's message for the annual Philippine Eagle Week (PEW) celebration this month.

This year's PEW celebration is anchored on the theme "Saving eagles, protecting forests, securing our future: Stop the killings!"

She noted the Philippine eagle isn't merely a sight to behold but is also instrumental in maintaining ecological balance by feeding on rats, snakes and other small animals - in effect helping keep such species' population in check.

Presence of Philippine eagles likewise indicates healthy state of forests these winged wonders inhabit, she added.

Citing available data, however, Almeda said BMB and its partners estimated the Philippine eagle's nationwide population at only about 500 pairs of male and female adult birds or some 1,000 heads as of 2006.

Habitat destruction and shooting are among causes of the birds' population decline over the years, noted experts.

Almeda urged communities nationwide to help monitor, conserve and protect Philippine eagles as well as inform BMB and other authorities about sightings of these birds.

"Our call is to continue efforts on conserving and protecting the Philippine eagle," she said.

According to BMB's partner Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), such bird's height of about a meter and wingspan of some two meters make this one of the world's largest and most powerful eagles.

In its Red List, however, International Union for Conservation of Nature classified the Philippine eagle as already critically endangered for having an "extremely small population."

The list noted "extensive" deforestation in the country resulted in the Philippine eagle population's "extremely rapid" decline in the past six decades.

PEF said shooting and trapping are also threats to Philippine eagles' survival.

"At least one Philippine eagle is killed every year because of shooting," PEF noted.

Through Proclamation 79, Series of 1999, then President Joseph Estrada declared June 4 to 10 of every year as PEW to help promote conservation and protection of Philippine eagles.

Such proclamation also urged all government agencies and instrumentalities to conduct during PEW activities highlighting the Philippine eagle and its importance.

In 1995, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Proclamation 615 declaring the Philippine eagle as the country's national bird.

Aside from being a flagship species in Philippine wildlife conservation, he said the Philippine eagle is a natural treasure found only in the Philippines.

The bird's uniqueness, strength, power and love for freedom exemplifies the Filipino people, he noted.

He added the Philippine eagle offers "immense ecological, aesthetic, educational, historical, recreational and scientific value to the Philippines and Filipino people." (OpinYon)