THE elusive and critically endangered Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) was again spotted this year in the forests of Samar Island not once, but twice in two weeks, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the raptor was seen by members of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and the Institute of Biology of the University of the Philippines-Diliman during their expedition at the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) from September 19 to October 4.
“This is definitely an exciting development. These latest sightings only show that the Philippine eagle still has a chance to survive in its natural habitat and the forests of Samar Island provide a safe haven for the rare bird,” Paje said.
The first sighting was in the thickly forested barangay of Buluan in Calbiga town, Samar, the same area where a juvenile Philippine eagle was captured by hunters in 2011. The second one was within the Taft Forest Wildlife Sanctuary in Eastern Samar.
Both sightings were captured on video and a sequence of photographs taken by the PEF-UP team.
Records showed that the Philippine eagle was first seen in Paranas, Samar on June 15, 1896 by British naturalist John Whitehead. It was followed by a sighting in 1997, which caused then President Joseph Estrada to declare the 3,720 hectares of Samar forest as Taft Forest Wildlife (Philippine Eagle) Sanctuary on July 31, 1999 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 155.
A sighting of the national bird at the SINP was also recorded in 2011. This was followed by another sighting in 2013 by Ruth Francisco, an avid birder from the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.
With the recent sighting, DENR Region 8 Director Leonardo Sibbaluca urged anew the people of Samar to help protect the remaining forests of Eastern Visayas, saying the existence of Philippine eagle and other wildlife depends on its condition.
“Let us be proud with the presence of the Philippine eagle in our locality because this indicates a rich and ecologically balanced forest favorable for the mighty bird to inhabit,” Sibbaluca said.
PEF’s Giovanne Tampos said the rescue of wounded Philippine eagle “Cabilga” in Samar in July 2011 and other reported sightings within the SINP prompted the PEF-UP team to conduct further research study and observation.