WHENEVER someone asks him what he does for a living, he always responds by showing them a picture of the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi). He then explains what his organization is doing to conserve said the specie. The usual replies he gets after: “Wow,” “That’s a fierce looking bird,” or “It looks like a rock star.”
J Kahlil Panopio, 24, has been working as a research assistant for Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources Inc. since 2012. Because of his work, he was given the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) program fellowship from Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a global conservation group. His main goal is to conserve the population of Philippine Eagle at Mingan Mountain Range, at specifically Mt. Dingalan Important Bird Area (IBAs), in Central Luzon, Philippines.
“Conservation of threatened Philippine birds has been my main field of interest ever since I started working in Haribon,” said Panopio.
One of his accomplishments is the development of the book State of Philippine Birds, which is about the status of birds in the Philippines.
“My escapades as research assistant allow me to help several local governments all over the Philippines in monitoring their Important Bird Areas following the state, pressure, and response framework,” Panopio said.
Philippine Eagles can be found in four islands in the Philippines namely, Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao. Majority of the information about the ecology of Philippine Eagles are from the Mindanao population. Because of the significant difference of species composition, density and diversity of Philippine Eagle prey between Luzon and Mindanao, it is crucial to fill the information gap about the Luzon population.
“Knowing the difference between the Luzon and Mindanao population of Philippine Eagles would lead to more appropriate conservation strategies specific to the Luzon population,” he said.
His EDGE fellowship will take place in the pristine broadleaf forest of Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Luzon. He will be doing research on the triangular landform lodged in the Mingan Mountain Range, which is shared by the province of Nueva Ecija and Aurora.
“I’ll be working closely with the local stakeholders and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to declare Mingan as a Critical Habitat using the Philippine Eagle as a flagship species which will in turn provide a legal framework for its conservation,” he said.
Panopio believes that the conservation of the Mingan Mountains would be a big leap for the future of Philippine Eagles and of the Sierra Madre as a whole. The designation of the Mt. Mingan as a Critical Habitat for the Philippine Eagle can bring a step closer to a managed and sustainable forest that will conserve not only the Philippine Eagle but also other threatened species that are important both ecologically and economically.