Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Philippine Eagle

The importance of a species or what is necessary for a species to survive is one very complicated subject.  Wild animals don’t have stores to buy food and apartments to crowd into.  While we take this fact for granted every day, one of the world’s largest raptors is in a whole lot of trouble.

The Philippine Eagle (photo: the wikipedia files)

The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is one gigantic bird!  Another name for this bird is the Monkey-Eating Eagle because, well, it eats monkeys--primarily Macaques.

When I say this bird is gigantic, what I’m saying is it stands 3 feet tall and weighs around 15 pounds!  I can’t even imagine having an eagle of that size on the glove.  It would be more than half of my height!
This species is, unfortunately, critically endangered and it is endemic (restricted) to the Philippines.  But, over the last 20 years it has been completely removed from all but four of the Philippine Islands: Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, and Samar.  There are now less than 200 individuals remaining, most of which are located on the islands of Mindanao and Luzon--with only a few nesting pairs being found on Leyte and Samar.  Hunting, habitat loss, and pollution are the main reasons for their decline. 

These birds have always been prized for their size but locals killed them to protect livestock as well.

Deforestation is a major concern; it reduces habitat for their prey, and reduces their available home range.  Philippine Eagles have been known to have a territory of up to 50 square miles.  To date around 80 percent of the rainforest has been lost to deforestation.  Philippine eagles search for the tallest of trees in the tropical rainforest.  Choice trees rise above the canopy and they need those old growth, very large trees in which to nest.  Newly planted, smaller trees just don’t work.

We tend to look around us at all of the trees and think that deforestation isn’t a problem.  We hear about new trees being planted to replace old ones and believe that we are repairing damage; that those new trees make up for the damage.  However, the fact remains that habitat has been lost.  Old growth trees can be hundreds of years old and these birds don’t have the time to wait around for us to mend our mistakes. 

By the time our attempts at reparation reach a real habitat gain this animal may already be gone.

To learn more about the Philippine Eagle and programs that are currently being implemented by the Philippine Eagle Foundation to save this magnificent creature from extinction Click Here.

Submitted by W. Leigh French, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

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