By Warren Elijah Valdez
DAVAO CITY – The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and the Aboitiz Power Corporation celebrated the 21st hatchday of the captive-bred eagle “Pangarap” on Monday.
Pangarap, a Philippine eagle adopted by the Aboitiz Power Corp. since 2010, turned 21 years old on Sunday, February 23.
In an interview, Andi Baldonado, the PEF developmental program manager, said they were hoping to acquire enough semen from another male bird to artificially inseminate Pangarap this July in time with the breeding season.
Pangarap is one of the only few remaining female Philippine eagles in the country being taken cared of at the conservation.
A female bird, who is of breeding age, is kept in a restricted area to keep it from experiencing stressful conditions.
The breeding season is during the months of June to January, with September to November as the peak period. The hatching months, meanwhile, falls every December to January.
“Si Pangarap wala siya naka exhibit (as of now). Priority namo sa iyaha is to breed,” Baldonado said, noting that the eagle must not be stressed or disturbed by the presence of other people as the bird is “mal-imprinted with its keeper.”
However, Baldonado revealed that every time Pangarap laid an egg in the past, it turned out to be infertile.
She added that Pangarap was unable to produce a fertile egg in the last season as well.
“We hope sa July maka gamit ta ug enough semen from another male bird na ma-inseminate kay Pangarap. Kay wala man tay semen pa na ma- collect na viable pwede (para) cooperative artificial insemination,” she said.
Cooperative artificial insemination is when a semen of a male bird is taken by its keeper and then transferred to the keeper of another female bird, as these birds (Philippine Eagle) are human imprinted all throughout their development.
“(The eagle) imprinted pud sa tao, (its) keeper. Ang iyang pagka- recognize sa tao na keeper is murag mate niya, murag partner niya so tungod ana naay copulation pwede mahitabo,” Baldonado said, noting that only the keeper of that particular eagle or bird can take a semen or artificially inject it to the bird.
Imprinting is a learning process in which the bird gains its sense of species identification as they do not automatically know what they are upon hatching. This means that they visually imprint on their parents (keeper) in the duration of their development, which would become their mode of identification for life.
Baldonado added that this was a good way of conserving the production as “the birds are not being forced to do it.”
“We take time to build the relationship between the keeper and the bird and for the keeper to win its trust. There is no aggression in between,” she said.
There about 32 Philippine eagles being taken care of by the eagle center. More or less 10 birds are exhibited around the center. Some of these, however, could no longer breed as the foundation has already retired them because of their age, while some are still not mature enough for breeding.
Around 400 eagles in the wild are being monitored in the Philippines, all of which can only be found in Samar, Leyte, some areas in Luzon and most are here in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, deforestation is still one of the main challenges in conserving the endangered Philippine eagle.
Baldonado said every time a forest is being cut down, the Philippine eagles in the wild are at their most vulnerable state to the possibility of being shot by hunters and the like.
“They also do not have enough prey items for them to thrive in the forest,” she said.
“The forest is of the greatest importance (for the birds), so it must be conserved as well.”
Baldonado also said they were continuously monitoring the forest activities here in Davao, with the coordination of their forest guard-partners in the foundation.
“They help us monitor patrol the forest and also protect the nest site,” she added.
There are, so far, no recorded figures yet of the cases but expedition inputs by the PEF team, she said, had observed that most of the birds being turned over were shot or injured because of deforestation.