In Davao City, British documentarist films plight of a young Philippine eagle

Kenneth Mheil Mangaya-Ay, Choose Philippines

Posted at Jun 03 2020 01:12 PM


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DAVAO CITY -- The great Philippine Eagle is one of our planet’s most unique, beautiful animals. Sadly, it is also considered an endangered species, with just 400 pairs left in the wild. 

Protecting and ensuring their survival is a challenge bravely faced by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) in Davao City, who keeps a population of these animals alive both in the wild and at their center. This initiative inspired a biologist to make a masterpiece that will make us appreciate and protect our national bird.

The documentary is the brainchild of British wildlife documentary presenter, filmmaker, and biologist, Dan O’Neill, who has an insatiable love for adventure and wildlife conservation. 

“I met with Jayson Ibanez in London and he told me the story of a young female Philippine eagle who was rescued from the ocean in the Sarangani Province. Coming to the Philippines and following her story made me more in awe of these mythical eagles that I ever imagined and have been sharing stories of them ever since, as well as now having very recently been named patron of the PEF,” shared O’Neill.


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O’Neill has traveled to some of the world's most remote places in search of iconic animals: from the mountains of North Africa, the ancient Mayan temples of the Yucatan, and to the deepest parts of the Amazon rainforest, among others. He documents his explorations through film, leading to an understanding of how to stop wildlife crime. 

This year, he began his doctoral research into the effects of war on wildlife across the world. 

“I have always been passionate about birds of prey. At the age of 14, I trained my own hawk, Alto -- which sparked a life-long wish to conserve these magnificent birds in the wild,” said O’Neill.


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His film, "Queen of Birds," follows the story of one young female eagle who was found drowning in the ocean by two fishermen. They saved her life and called in help from the PEF which set in motion this whole project. 

“I came across to Mindanao with Ben Harris, a camera operator, and planned to learn about how vital Philippine eagles are and release her back into the wild. What happened was never what we could have expected,” teases O’Neill. 


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The production experience made O’Neill feel at home in the Philippines. 

“To see the connection people in the Philippines have to these birds was incredibly transformative for me. To see people so passionate about conservation because of the Philippine eagle proves the power one animal can have to inspire change and gives me so much hope. The incredible work of the PEF has kept the brilliant national bird of the Philippines alive and living in the wild today! I'm incredibly honored to work with the PEF moving forward and to help encourage support for their work,” shared O’Neill.


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O'Neill is also running a fundraiser for the PEF during the COVID-19 crisis. “In these unprecedented times, the foundation needs as much help as possible to care for the 100+ animals at the Philippine Eagle Center including 31 stunning Philippine eagles.” Donations can also be coursed directly to the Philippine Eagle Foundation. 


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The short film is set to have a Digital Premier on June 10 in line with the celebration of the Philippine Eagle Week 2020.

This article was originally published on the Choose Philippines website.