On the Edge of Existence: Philippine Eagle

by Lynda Lorraine

A conservative estimate of the population of Philippine Eagles is currently set at approximately 400 pairs left in the wild and is critically endangered. They are the largest, most powerful and heaviest known birds of prey with a two metre long wingspan, stands over one metre tall and can weigh up to seven to eight kilograms, which is larger than a Golden Eagle. Decimated by massive loss of habitat resulting from large-scale deforestation in most of its range in the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao, the bird is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List and its population continues to decline. So treasured it has been declared the Philippine national bird.

© Rich Lindie

A clue to its favoured diet is in its nickname, the monkey-eating eagle. The Philippine Eagle prefer larger prey of monkeys and other small primates, including flying lemurs and have also been known to take small deer. However, the they also eats bats, snakes, flying squirrels, and rats. Due to is sheer size and power the Philippine Eagle is able to handle this kind of large prey, where commonly, many other raptor species focus more on smaller rodents and birds.

© Rich Lindie

Zooligical Society of London’s EDGE OF EXISTENCE programme, which I have fundraised for, sponsor local fellows to collect data about the species to inform a Critical Habitat Management Plan. Fellows help secure the future of EDGE species by helping to build conservation capacity in regions in which they occur.

This is achieved though awarding two-year fellowships to future conservation leaders, the EDGE Fellows, working on poorly-known EDGE species. They collect data that can be used to establish the distribution, range, habitat requirements, nesting density, breeding biology, and prey items of the Philippine Eagles. Ultimately data which will be developed and implemented with representatives from key stakeholder groups, including the Critical Habitat Technical Working Group, Municipal Council and local communities.

© Alain Pascua

The latest of these fellows is J Kahlil Panopio who implemented the fellows project between 2015 and 2017 in the Mingan Mountains, Luzon Island, Philippines.

Kahlil worked with the Haribon Foundation and works primarily in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Luzon, where one of his tasks is to monitor Philippine Eagles. Kahlil is passionate about tropical forest conservation and the expertise he gained through his EDGE Fellowship is enabling him to continue to make a substantial impact in the field of ornithology, which currently has few experts in the Philippines. In 2017 Kahlil became one of the first EDGE Affiliates.

“The ultimate goal of the EDGE programme is to ensure that local stakeholders, governments, and in-country and international conservation organisations take ownership of these forgotten species and commit to ensuring their future survival.”

Edge of Existence

Among Kahlil’s achievements while he was a fellow with EDGE included training almost 60 people to establish field teams to aid data collection, presented data to local government about the Philippine Eagle and this critical habitat and initiated a conservation and awareness-raising campaign.

© Alain Pascua

To find out more about the Philippine Eagle visit the websites of Edge of Existence and Philippine Eagle Foundation. And to find out about key biodiversity areas in the Philippines search the Key Biodiversity Areas map.

© Alain Pascua

Images © Edge of Existence

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