May 24

Four illegally held Philippine eagles have been rescued in the last six months in the Philippines, prompting conservationists to warn the government about the continued threat of poaching to this Critically Endangered raptor.    

Photo of Philippine eagle

The Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is the world's largest eagle, and one of the most threatened raptors

 Highest rescue rate since 2000

Dennis Salvador, the executive director of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) has said that the group has retrieved four Philippine eagles in recent months, one of the highest rates of retrievals since 2000. 

Two of the rescued eagles were seriously injured, one with missing toes and the other with missing wing feathers, while a third died due to a fungal infection. 

According to Salvador, “The abuse and harm caused on Philippine eagles illustrate our reckless management of our natural resources. If the Philippine eagle, which is already perhaps the most prominent and recognizable of Philippine wildlife species, suffers a fate as grim as the above four eagles have experienced, how much more other species? What bigger injustices could possibly be happening to the rest of the Philippine environment?” 

Photo of Philippine eagle

The current population is likely to number fewer than 250 mature individuals

Conservation laws not enforced 

Just 180 to 500 mature Philippine eagles are thought to remain in Mindanao, Luzon, Leyte and Samar islands, with forest loss and poaching the main threats to their survival. 

In the Philippines, Wildlife Act 9147 prohibits the killing, collection, possession, and maltreatment of wildlife, their byproducts and derivatives, as well as activities which threaten critical habitats, such as dumping of waste, burning, logging, quarrying, and mineral exploration and extraction. 

However, conservation laws do not appear to deter trapping of this magnificent species, and the law is not currently being strictly enforced. 

Misjudging the need for human care 

PEF spokesperson, Tatit Quiblat, highlights how important it is that eagles remain in the forest. “Many of the eagles we retrieved were reported or brought to us by individuals or groups who have good intentions for the birds. We appreciate their concern. However, this concern often translates to the incorrect thinking that we should ‘care’ for the eagle by taking it and keeping it in human care,” she adds. 

Close up photo of a captive Philippine eagle

This majestic Philippine eagle is threatened by poaching and habitat loss

Often, people surrender captured Philippine eagles, mistakenly thinking that they will get a reward. But, says Quiblat, “They should understand that transporting of eagles from their natural habitats in the forests is not a profitable deed. What we want to reward is human actions that ensure the eagles flourish in their natural habitats.” 

We are extremely distressed about these events. We call on all local government units and the media to advise their constituency on the appropriate response when a Philippine eagle has been found.” 

Visit the Philippine Eagle Foundation website 

Read the Philippine Star newspaper article on Philippine eagle poaching 

Find out more about the Philippine eagle on ARKive 

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author