Letter-writer belaboring the point on eagle releases
APPARENTLY TAKING pleasure in bashing others and playing the naysayer, Estanislao Albano Jr. wrote two more letters to the Inquirer (“Data show ‘unfavorable score’ for PEF ‘releases,’” Opinion, 2/17/16; “PEF run by people with heads in clouds,” Opinion, 3/22/16) purportedly in reaction to our reply (“In captivity, eagle’s potential killed,” Opinion, 2/10/16) to his first letter (“Is PEF helping save PH eagles?” Opinion, 2/1/16). It would seem that his subsequent letters are meant not only to further discredit our eagle releases but also to malign the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF).
We feel sorry he has to belabor the point. But suspending eagle releases does not save the eagles from extinction. On the contrary, enhancing the survival of both adult and young eagles in the wild by eradicating eagle shooting, hunting and trapping, and preventing deforestation (wildlife crimes that can be minimized by strengthening law enforcement, a point we explained in our previous letter) does.
Another lasting response is investing in creating the physical and socioeconomic environments to prevent these crimes (i.e., situational crime prevention). Both are elaborated in a white paper that the PEF submitted and presented during a Senate inquiry in November 2015.
Our support to indigenous and local forest guards who do species monitoring and foot patrols in 14 eagle habitats across the country, as part of our community-based conservation program that also empowers rural communities and helps secure their wellbeing, is important and is geared toward that end. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other NGOs are also doing their share in conserving as many wild populations as possible.
Species extinction, as a “wicked problem,” has multiple causes and, thus, requires multiple solutions. We maintain that the practice of releasing eagles remains an important conservation tool, together with efforts like educating the public, enforcing wildlife laws, preserving nesting sites and habitats, protecting eagle pairs and their young, and building local values for eagles and biodiversity.
Research and monitoring, using satellite telemetry technology to keep track of rehabilitated eagles released back to the forests (eight birds) and eagles free-living in the wild (eight birds), have delivered the sad news: Even inside protected areas where we thought birds are safe, or in forests close to villages that generally support eagle conservation, and in situations where our forest guards are not looking, there is a 50-percent chance that our Philippine eagles would be hunted down.
Instead of shooting the messenger, we should focus our energies on understanding the root causes of wildlife persecution and, more importantly, do our part in addressing the problem.
Again, we invite Estanislao Albano Jr. to do the same.
—JAYSON C. IBAÑEZ, director for research and conservation, Philippine Eagle Foundation, [email protected]
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