By Alex M. Eduque
Last April 17, a momentous milestone for the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) was marked. To celebrate its 31st year, PEF decided to host its first event in Manila, simultaneous with its turn-over of Sakura – a taxidermized Philippine Eagle specimen – to the National Museum of Natural History, in order to spread awareness about its cause. In addition to this, a snippet from a video by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that presents PEF in action was played. The video showcased, and gave the audience a glimpse of a part of the organization’s mission to rehabilitate injured Philippine eagles from the wild, monitor their recovery, and assess their capacity to be re-introduced to their forest habitat through the story of eagle Matatag, who was cared for after he was shot in the wild and brought to the center. After which, a fashion show by international award-winning designer John Herrera (whose pieces were modeled by members of the Professional Models Association of the Philippines) featuring his renowned collection Agila further highlighted the aesthetic beauty of the Philippine Eagle, and proved that it is only with the support of its advocates and volunteers, and together with its multiple and multitude of partners who advocate for the cause in their own fields, that PEF is able to move towards greater heights. All under the direction and creative genius of the Yaparazzi team (headed by Javi Martinez and eventologist extraordinaire Tim Yap), the event was testament that when efforts and minds are concerted for a common vision, and good cause, much can be achieved, and a meaningful message always trickles through our minds and hearts.
Founded in 1987, the Philippine Eagle Foundation believes that the fate and population of our national bird is vanishing, and that this is inextricably linked with the health of our environment and the quality of Philippine life and wildlife. The organization’s mission is to promote the survival of the Philippine Eagle, the biodiversity it represents, and the sustainable use of our forest resources for future generations to enjoy. With our very own majestic bird as the focal point of PEF, the organization aims not only to recover its dwindling population, but also to protect its forest habitants, and ensure the sustainable use of the forests’ bounties for the Filipino people.
PEF is widely recognized for its accomplishments in the conservation of the Philippine eagle through its comprehensive approach in engaging research, its science-based programs, community strategies and education awareness. With deforestation and continued human persecution among the main reasons why there are very few eagles left in the wild, PEF estimates there to be only 400 pairs left in our forests, and because of this, employs a holistic and multi-stake holder approach to address these problems, in hopes of eventually removing the Philippine eagle from the critically endangered species list.
That evening, the taxedermized Sakura, the 28th chick bred in the center, and the third chick produced by natural pair Go Phoenix and MVP Eagle, was turned-over to the National Museum to be a part of the exhibit in its new natural history building. Hatched last November 4, 2016, Sakura was adopted by Japan Prime Minister Abe in a naming ceremony held last January 13, 2017. Despite his healthy well-being, however, Sakura was unfortunately found dead in his enclosure last August 31, 2017, due to a venomous snake bite. Though it is unlikely for an adult eagle to die of a bite as it would be fully capable to hunt a snake, younger eagles, like Sakura, are vulnerable to this cause of death as they have yet to develop their skills in hunting. While the death of Sakura was an immense loss, it has allowed PEF to gain further knowledge that will further help improve the center’s rearing aviaries to make sure they are snake proof, and further the foundation’s understanding of the species to improve its approach in conserving them.
On behalf of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, its Chairman Ed Chua, Vice-Chairman Jaime Bautista, President (and my co-chair in mounting the event that evening) Felicia Atienza, Treasurer Johnson Ongking, Atty. Emmanuel C. Paras, our corporate secretary, and the rest of its Board of Trustees: Emily Abrera, Joselito D. Campos, Jr., Kenshi Iseri, Francis Ledesma, Robert Lehmann, Dr. Perry Ong, Raymond Racaza, Dr. Bryan M. Retales, Dr. Rick Watson, and yours truly, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude and thank you for the outpouring of support – not only to those who made it out that evening, but most especially to those who have been constant and continuous partners of the foundation and its mission. May we continue to join forces in paying tribute to the Philippine eagle – who that evening’s emcee extraordinaire Tim Yap aptly described as “Our national bird, and our most majestic Filipino symbol of strength, grace, and courage.”