• Philippine Eagle Sierra Madre habitat protection plan finalized

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    A designated protected area of more than 8,000 hectares is one step closer to reality for the only known presence of Philippine Eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi) or Haring Ibon in the Sierra Madre, after approval of a habitat protection plan, the Haribon Foundation reported.

    An ad hoc group of community and government members from various sectors met and finalized planning for what is called a “Critical Habitat” for the Haring Ibon in their municipality of Gabaldon in Nueva Ecija.

    Mt. Mingan sits near the center of the longest mountain range in the country, and was an otherwise unknown grouping of mountains straddling the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Aurora. Haribon Foundation biologists received word of Haring Ibon sightings from botanists in the area and in 2014 made official recordings of their presence after seeing two adults and one juvenile Haring Ibon.

    Two years later, a Haring Ibon Technical Working Group (TWG) composed of representatives from the women’s sector, Indigenous Peoples, education, local government officials, military, and environment-related government agencies, have finalized a Critical Habitat Management Plan or CHMP for the rare and critically endangered national bird.

    The Philippine Eagle Project on Mt. Mingan was 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), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the local government units of Gabaldon, Dingalan, and San Luis.

    During the finalization, elementary school teacher Carlota T. Camducam mentioned to fellow members of the TWG, “Meron na tayo rules ng do’s and don’ts, so we strictly observe po natin ang do’s and don’ts para at least yung site ngayon hindi maabuso.” (We now have rules, do’s and don’ts that we must strictly observe so this site is not abused.)

    Haring Ibon pairs can only raise one chick at a time, and require about 10,000 hectares of forest in order for them to see the chick through its first two years of life before it is ready to find its own territory. Which means more and more forest must be protected if the country were to increase the only populations of Haring Ibon in the world.

    The Critical Habitat of Gabaldon is the first of three Critical Habitats planned for creation by the Haribon Foundation. Two other municipalities in the province of Aurora, Dingalan and San Luis, also surround Mt. Mingan.

    Though protection for the national bird and symbol of healthy forests is inching its way closer to completion in this part of the Sierra Madre, more work must be done to secure the future of both Haring Ibon and the forests we depend on.

    The finalization of the CHMP in Gabaldon gives conservationists another reason to celebrate Haring Ibon as our country’s pride. But this should not be the end of our conscientious effort to help preserve ecosystems such as that in Gabaldon for the protection of the Haring Ibon. Haribon Foundation’s call to action is for all sectors; national and local government units, the business sector and local communities to extend our effort by being cautious with our work, preventing extractive activities and heedless abuse of the environment.

    For more information on Mt. Mingan and its Haring Ibon residents, visit @goharibon on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & Tumblr. For more information about Philippine Eagles in Luzon, please email wildlife@haribon.org.ph.

    Albert Balbutin/Haribon Foundation

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