Farmer faces 12 years jail for shooting, eating Philippine eagle

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 22 2008 05:16 PM | Updated as of Jul 23 2008 01:16 AM

Agence France-Presse

A farmer faces 12 years in prison if found guilty of killing and then eating one of the world's largest and rarest eagles, the government said Tuesday.

The three-year-old juvenile male Philippine eagle, which weighed more than four kilograms (about nine pounds), was shot with an air rifle on the northern slope of the country's fourth highest mountain, on July 10.

Brian Balaon, 22, will be charged for violating the wildlife protection act after he confessed to shooting the giant raptor and then eating its meat with his friends, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Joselito Atienza said.

"The killer of the rare eagle must suffer the consequences of his dastardly act to serve as a notice to everyone that we are serious in enforcing environmental laws," Atienza said in a statement.

The government considers the shooting of the bird as a major setback in attempts to save the critically endangered species from extinction.

Just 250 such eagles are estimated to remain in the wilds of Mindanao island. The slain bird had been a fledgling with a pellet wound on its neck and kept in a cage as a pet when it was rescued by wildlife officials near 2,899-metre (9,511-foot) Kitanglad mountain in September 2006.

The bird was nursed back to health, fitted with satellite and radio transmitters, and in March released near the towering peak where it was shot.

The farmer who attacked it 12 days ago told police he did not know the bird was one of the country's endangered eagles. It had perched on a tree at his upland farm.

Wildlife officials tracked him down six days later through the transmitters, which he buried on his land.

As well as a possible 12-year prison sentence, Balaon faces a fine of up to one million pesos (22,494 dollars) if found guilty.