MANILA – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has identified the Cordillera Mountains and Iligan City in Lanao del Norte province as new distribution and conservation areas, with Leyte as re-discovery site for the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi).
In a statement, DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said the decision came after sightings of the majestic eagle in Apayao and Leyte provinces were reported earlier this year by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and the University of the Philippines (UP), respectively.
Scientists and government officials working on the conservation of the national bird believe that these sightings offered "new beacons of hope" for the Philippine Eagle.
“The findings in Luzon is very important, because the birds have never been seen in that area. Akala natin hindi sila bagay sa habitat na ‘yon. This will provide a platform for further studies," says Dennis Salvador, Executive Director of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.
Authorities estimate that only 500 pairs of Philippine Eagles live in the wild. Habitat destruction and poaching have contributed to the demise of the eagle.
Conservationists are quick to clarify that the findings do not indicate that the population of the Philippine Eagle is improving. However, the new information will be of immense help in protecting the species.
PAWB Director Theresa Mundita Lim, meanwhile, called for the preservation of the remaining forest habitats of the Philippine Eagle.
Lim explained that the eagle, as a natural predator, upholds the ecological balance in the forests by regulating the population of smaller animals like rodents and snakes that can destroy agricultural crops and pose danger to humans.
Lim said awareness programs include correcting misconceptions on the eagle being a nuisance or pest.