Is PEF helping save PH eagles?
ANIMAL LOVERS in the country and even other parts of the world warmly welcomed the birth of the 26th Philippine eagle in the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) conservation center in Davao City last December, the first eaglet hatched in captivity in two years. Conservationists hailed the new eagle as a boost to the efforts to stave off the extinction of this species of raptor found only in the Philippines.
Forgotten by the public was the pattern of freed full-grown eagles meeting their death, the last of which was Pamana, who died in August. This pattern has become regular in recent years, giving rise to the question of whether or not the PEF is actually helping in the mission to save the Philippine eagle from extinction.
The shooting to death of five freed eagles and the electrocution of one in the last five years have not taught the PEF that releasing birds into the open is fraught with dangers and has far-reaching implications on the continuing existence of this bird species. Despite the incalculable losses coming in close succession, the foundation persists in the foolhardy assumption that there are still open spaces in the country where the Philippine eagle could be safe to fly and find a mate and, therefore, be a factor in increasing the population of this endangered species.
To underscore PEF executive director Dennis Joseph Salvador’s incurable infatuation with the idea that, regardless of the prevailing conditions, the best place for an animal is always its natural habitat, we point to what he said in the aftermath of the killing of Pamana, as reported in this paper (“P200K bounty for info on Pamana killer,” Front Page, 8/21/15): that the PEF will continue to release eagles to the wilds “because that’s where they belong.” To me, that’s just like a man who has lost three children to sharks refusing to move his residence away from the sea or to restrict the freedom of his children because “children will always swim in the sea.”
The PEF made much of the reward money raised for the apprehension of the person who shot Pamana. While it is always good for offenders to get their comeuppance, it is highly doubtful if the prosecution and even the punishment of the culprit could impact on the efforts to conserve the Philippine eagle. The more pressing and prudent action that the PEF should have taken after the death of Pamana and other freed eagles was to stop the practice of releasing eagles unless and until an area wide enough for the birds to live and breed, and beyond the reach of human predators on a 24/7 basis, has been established.
If, as Salvador said, the PEF will continue to release eagles sans such an assurance, the birth of Chick 26 is likely to be for naught except for the pleasure it will afford animal lovers while it remains in captivity. Needless to say, without a change in the position of the PEF, Chick 26 and the other eagles in the care of the PEF face an uncertain future which bodes badly for the Philippine eagle.
It is high time the PEF and other romantic animal lovers accepted that in this country, for as long as people view wildlife as just a source of meat and easy money, the only safe place for the Philippine eagle and other wildlife is in captivity.
—ESTANISLAO C. ALBANO JR., Tabuk City, Kalinga, [email protected]
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