"For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant" (Is 42:14)

Sinabadan Shot, Wounded By Poachers: First juvenile eagle reared successfully to independence in the wild by a single eagle parent

orest guards trained by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) found Sinabadan near a creek in San Fernando, Bukidnon, on Februray 24, 2023 with gunshot wounds by poachers. It is not a co-incidence that Sinabadan was rescued on the exact anniversary date of the signing of Presidential Proclamation No 79 on February 24, 1999. Bearing the force of an executive order enshrined in the Administrative Code of 1987 it was declared that June 4–10 of that and every year thereafter to be Philippine Eagle Week.

During an X-ray exam, PEF veterinarians found three air-gun pellets in her body—one in the chest, another in the thigh, and still another deep in the abdomen. Those in the chest and thigh were removed during surgery.

The pellet wound in Sinabadan’s chest was still fresh, while the two others were probably inflicted a few months ago. "Blindness in its right eye and its failure to hunt efficiently... appears to be the major cause of her weight loss," PEF said.

The Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), also known as the monkey-eating eagle or "Great Philippine eagle," is a species of eagle of the family Accipitridae which is endemic to forests in the Philippines. Locally, it has numerous names including ágila (a Spanish loanword), háribon (from haring ibón, "king bird"), and banog ("kite"). It has brown and white-colored plumage, a shaggy crest, and generally measures 86 to 102 cm (2.82 to 3.35 ft) in length and weighs 4.04 to 8.0 kg (8.9 to 17.6 lb). It has a wingspan of 7 feet, second longest among living birds after the wandering albatross. The most significant threat to the species is loss of habitat because of deforestation.

The Philippine Eagle was named the national bird of the Philippines in 1995. It is considered to be one of the rarest, largest and most powerful among forest raptors. They are also listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with an estimated number of only 400 pairs remaining in the wild, thriving in the dwindling forests of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. “The Philippine eagle is the rarest of its kind in the world and is endemic to only four islands in the country. The noble and romantic Philippine eagle is a slow breeder, all the more reason why it needs our help to survive in the wild,” the PEF said. The Philippine eagle is monogamous and a couple takes extraordinary effort and time to rear an eaglet. In case one of the couple dies, the surviving eagle will start the long and tedious process of finding a new mate and go through the whole courtship ritual.

Illustration of a Philippine eagle kept in captivity in London in 1909–1910

Under Republic Act No 9147, also called Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, the killing of a critically endangered species is punishable by imprisonment of between six and 12 years and heavy fines ranging from P100,000 to P1 million.

“This will always instill in the minds and hearts of the Filipino people the significance of the Philippine Eagle as a biological indicator of the forest ecosystems and as national symbol,” Former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Director Ramon Paje said.

Paje said “The Philippine eagle is a unique heritage, found only in this part of the world that needs to be nurtured as it is the Filipino people’s gift to the global community."

Reared by a single parent

Philippine eagles pair for life in their given 30 to 60-year life expectancy and females lay just a single egg every two years. Eagles in the wild live shorter than those in captivity. In 2014, when Sinabadan was still a 7-month-old chick living in the vicinity of Mt Apo, she lost her father to a poacher's gun. Despite fears from conservationists that Sinabadan might not survive long, her mother fought hard for her to live. Because of this Dr Jayson Ibañez, the PEF director for research and conservation considers Sinabadan as the world’s first juvenile eagle reared successfully to independence in the wild by a single eagle parent.

The wounded Philippine eagle takes her name after the Sinabadan Kag Tugalan, which is a Bagobo Tagabawa Indigenous Peoples Organization (IPO) in Mt Apo, Davao City whose members guarded her natural habitat. The Bagobo Tagabawa, who are among the earliest settlers of Davao, have co-existed with generations of Philippine eagles then and now.

When Sinabadan left Mt Apo for good in November 2017, she was strapped with radio and GPS transmitters to allow conservationists to monitor her every movement. Her well-tracked life provided conservationists deeper knowledge on the growth and maturation of the endangered raptor in the wild prior to the attack. “It was a remarkable and challenging journey getting to the next big forest, and flying over peopled landscapes, given that Mindanao’s forest cover now are mostly fragments in a sea of farmlands, orchards and open areas,” Ibañez said.

“Remarkably, Sinabadan used small patches of forests as her cover and pit stops. From a naive juvenile, she had grown wary through time. She dispersed secretly and gradually, covering distances of no more than 2 kilometers daily,” Ibañez said of the bird’s tracked journey.

The government is exerting more and more efforts focused at raising national awareness in the preservation of what is left of the Philippine Eagle. The Philippine Eagle Week (PEW) is celebrated every June 4-10 of each calendar year by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No 79, series of 1999 with the theme “Saving eagles, Protecting forests, Securing our future: Stop the Killings.” Fr JM Manzano SJ

Sources: March 3, 2023 Inquirer.net, Wikipedia