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Data show ‘unfavorable score’ for PEF ‘releases’

12:07 AM February 17, 2016

In trying to debunk my contention that releasing Philippine eagles into the open is foolish given the lack of safe spaces for them to thrive and the anti-wildlife mentality of Filipinos, Philippine Eagle Foundation’s (PEF) Jayson Ibañez shot himself in the foot several times with awesome accuracy (“In captivity, eagle’s potential killed,” Opinion, 2/10/16).

First, he made it appear that the shooting to death of Pamana is an isolated case. The fact is, of the 10 eagles released by PEF since 1999, five were killed by hunters. Why Ibañez chose to give an incomplete picture I could only hazard a guess.

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Second, he disputed my description of Filipinos as unmitigated wildlife predators by citing the case of 600 local forest guards of 14 pairs of Philippine eagles. Obviously, he did not realize I was not referring to people sworn to protect wildlife as the term “forest guard” denotes, but to the people that make them necessary. More importantly, what’s 600 to the millions of Filipinos responsible for the near disappearance of our wildlife?

Ibañez contradicted official PEF data on gunshots accounting for nine out of 10 Philippine eagle casualties (“Center seeks more space to save monkey-eating Philippine eagle,” phys.org, 2/8/16). Yet, the article “Ecology and conservation of Philippine Eagles” (online) in 2006, which he cowrote, pointed to hunting as “a major and deadly threat to the species,” noting that all the 11 eagles recovered by PEF since 1999 were victims of human predators.

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Against overwhelming evidence, Ibañez wants us to believe Filipinos have nothing to do with the inclusion of more than 40 species in the country in the critically endangered list.

I am not alone in claiming that we are culturally flawed when it comes to wildlife conservation. Mike Lu of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines said in the article “Poor Filipinos eat, sell rare wildlife for survival” (News, 9/23/11): “It is in our culture to catch, kill and/or cook anything that moves.”

Ibañez said that in captivity, the reproductive potential of eagles is wasted. Then how come then that 27 eagles under PEF’s care bred in captivity? And why does the PEF want to expand the breeding center so they can pair more eagles, as the earlier-referred Feb. 8 phys.org article states?

Ibañez alleged that released eagles can thrive and breed in the wilds. But the current score—four alive against six dead, including the one electrocuted—shows that releasing eagles is still a hit-and-miss proposition we can ill afford if we want to save the Philippine eagle.

I am not for absolutely stopping the release of eagles. All I am saying is, we wait until the conditions for the birds’ safety from human predators, on 24/7 basis, shall have been met. The trouble with PEF is, it’s like an overexcited and overeager kid who cannot wait for such basic conditions to be in place before releasing the eagles, thus the unnecessary heavy toll on our hopes for the survival of the Philippine eagle species.

—ESTANISLAO C. ALBANO JR., [email protected]

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TAGS: Pamana, Philippine Eagle, Philippine Eagle Foundation, wildlife
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