AFTER disappearing for three years, “Racquel,” Luzon’s first “instrumented” Philippine Eagle, was sighted again in the jungles
of Sierra Madre. A team of biologists from the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) was able to track “Racquel” through the miniature Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite transmitter strapped on the bird’s back. “Raquel” was released as a sub-adult eagle in San Mariano town in Isabela in May 2011 months after she was rescued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) from her captor who secretly kept her in a small cage.
Communications officer Vida Lyn Dumadag said since 2013 until June this year, “Raquel,” now a full adult, holed up at the Quirino Protected Landscape.
“[Raquel] has explored the forests of Dilasag, Aurora and Dinapigue in Isabela in 2012, but eluded a two week expedition by the PEF [Philippine Eagle Foundation] and DENR which attempted to locate her in Dinapigue that year,” Dumagdag said.
The biologists said the raptor appears to have settled along the boundaries of two national protected areas—the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park and the Quirino Protected Landscape.
PEF biologists Tatiana Abano and Rowell Taraya said they flew across the mountains on a Cessna plane to track down “Raquel.”
“After nearly two weeks of patient observations, challenging treks along winding rivers, across steep ravines and through thick forests, our team’s vigilance and grit paid off, Raquel was finally seen,” the PEF search team said.
Abano said they saw the eagle gliding over a long and dense riverine forest on July 11. The next day, the bird was seen perched on a tree.
“We got the chance to visually examine Raquel who appeared healthy and in good shape. Her crop was full, which means she already hunted and was feeding well. Her feathers were well groomed. She was also very alert; occasionally raising her head feathers into a flamboyant crest whenever she scanned her surroundings,” Abano said.
Dennis Salvador, Executive Director of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, believes that Raquel will pair up, settle in its own territory and breed very soon.
“The Sierra Madres have excellent habitat conditions and its wide menu of prey animals such as palm civets, cloud rats, monkeys, monitor lizards, and rufous hornbills and that the chances of Raquel surviving and breeding to contribute offsprings to the critically endangered’ Philippine Eagle population is very high,” Salvador said.
“[Raquel] as a representative of the Luzon population is a beacon of hope for the conservation and research of eagles in Luzon Island,” Salvador said.
Research expeditions and the conservation of Philippine Eagles in Luzon were made possible with the help of San Roque Power Corp., Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, The Peregrine Fund, and the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).