In captivity, eagle’s potential killed
Estanislao Albano Jr. lambasted the release of eagles in captivity (“Is PEF helping save PH eagles?” Opinion, 2/1/16), stating that the “only safe place for the Philippine eagle and other wildlife is in captivity” considering that “(Filipinos) view wildlife as just a source of meat and easy money” and that there is “lack of open spaces in the country where the Philippine eagle could be safe to fly and find a mate.”
In another forum, Albano also claimed that “national symbols, conservation, balance of nature and other concepts and practices of civilized nations relative to nature are virtually nonexistent in the Filipino culture.”
Firstly, there are areas still safe for eagles.
For example, three eagles that we have released— “Matatag” at Mt. Apo, “Kalabugao” in Bukidnon, and “Raquel” in Isabela—are well and fully independent in the wild.
Contrary to Albano’s claim that rural folks “would hunt down anything that moves for the table or for the market,” local forest guards at Mt. Apo and in Bukidnon watch over their eagles.
The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) helps conserve wild populations, too. To date, nearly 600 local forest guards protect 14 eagle pairs and their territories. They are definitely not the meat- and money-hungry savages Albano has portrayed.
True, eagle “Pamana” died. However, the fault of one person or two does not make everyone potential wildlife criminals. Laws deter crimes, but only if fully enforced. Intensifying wildlife law enforcement—not giving up on the practice of releasing eagles —is, therefore, the more meaningful conservation reform.
Secondly, on putting an end to the practice of releasing eagles in captivity due to the lack of open (vacant) spaces (habitats), it becomes clear that Albano’s grasp of this conservation tool is very limited.
The release into empty habitats (reintroductions) is just one method. Another is “restocking” (releasing eagles where population numbers are low). We have yet to employ these approaches.
Releasing rehabilitated adults back to their territories where they can breed again is another. We were successful in this. In North Cotabato, for instance, an adult female eagle, medicated in 1999, bred several times after release. Caging this bird forever would have been a case of wasted reproductive potential.
“Assisted-dispersal” is when young eagles are moved from their birth place to protected forests. They then become “surplus” birds that replace old and dying adults.
The release of eagles “Pamana,” “Matatag” and “Kalabugao” in 2015 was “assisted-dispersal.”
Pamana died, but one failed case does not negate the value of releasing eagles in captivity.
Lastly, limiting the fate of releasable eagles to only two—a dead eagle or a captive eagle—is misleading. As I pointed out, releases can result in birds surviving and breeding in the wild.
In summary, Albano’s bold call to “stop the practice of releasing eagles” is at best short-sighted and ill-informed. Albano would be better off removing his blinders.
—JAYSON C. IBAÑEZ, Philippine Eagle Foundation, [email protected]
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