Only six months after the death of Pamana—a Philippine Eagle that used to roam the Mount Hamiguitan Range in Davao Oriental freely—another “Haring Ibon” released in the forests of Mindanao was also shot.
Fortunately, the Philippine Eagle was only wounded and is now being rehabilitated at the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) in Davao City.
Because of these incidences, Haribon Foundation’s wildlife biologist J. Kahlil Bohol Panopio affirmed that shootings of Philippine Eagle in Mindanao is increasing. This is more alarming when compared to Luzon’s data, an average of about one shooting per year since 2013.
“In past discussions between Haribon, PEF, and other Haring Ibon conservation partners, one of the possible reasons behind this could be the increasing encroachment of communities in Haring Ibon forest habitats,” explained Panopio.
There is also the fragmented forest habitats of Mindanao, said Panopio. Each pair of Haring Ibon parents need 7,000 to 13,000 hectares of forest to call their territory. Once their chick grows to an age where it must disperse to search for its own home, it has a lower chance of finding a suitable area and even risks its life as it approaches the forest edge.
Panopio added, “The forest fragmentation, together with communities pushing further into forest areas where the Haring Ibon live, could be contributing to the higher rate of reported shootings of the species in Mindanao.”
Community role, integral to survival
As natural forests where Haring Ibon resides are threatened by encroachment, the importance of community awareness programs becomes more and more important.
After 40 years of zero confirmed sightings in Nueva Ecija, a family of Haring Ibon have been spotted living on Mt. Mingan, thanks to botanists working in the area. Haribon conducted a field survey to validate and confirmed the sightings of the Haring Ibon. Currently, Haribon works with the local government units (LGUs), indigenous peoples and community members surrounding Mt. Mingan to ensure the survival of the Haring Ibon living there. One of them, Gab-e, was named by communities in one of the towns not too far from its habitat in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija.
“It is important to have communities name the Haring Ibon living in their area because it gives them ownership of its conservation,” said Panopio.
These communities have worked to establish a Critical Habitat (CH) for the Haring Ibon declaring 19,000 hectares of forest habitat to be protected and conserved, with two other towns, San Luis and Dingalan of Aurora province, following the same With this, Mt. Mingan is now on its way to becoming a CH network for the protection of the Haring Ibon, placing the area ahead of other sites in conserving the Haring Ibon in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.
On a national scale, a partnership of several government agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), academe and private institutions form the Philippine Eagle Technical Working Group. Haribon and PEF are active partners of this group working together sharing data, information, and strategies regarding the protection of Haring Ibon. Unfotunately, they alone cannot accomplish the grander task of ensuring that the National Bird is no longer shot or its forest habitats no longer encroached upon.
In Filipino, “Matatag” means steadfast. But it is the steadfast actions of communities living closest to Haring Ibon that will ensure the survival of the species. As for those living further away in urban centers, participation in environmental policy-building and forest restoration efforts is just as critical. The lack of action by all might make everyone just as guilty as the hunters who shoot the Haring Ibon year after year.
For more information about Haring Ibon in Luzon, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The Philippine Eagle Project on Mt. Mingan is made possible with funding and support from Birdlife International, Toyota Foundation, Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) fellowships of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit Protected Area Management Enhancement (GIZ-PAME), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the local government units of Gabaldon, Dingalan and San Luis.)