Philippine Eagle Sarangani Pride goes hi-tech

16 Jul 2017
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MAITUM, Sarangani (July 16, 2017) – Philippine Eagle Sarangani Pride (SP) has been fitted with a hi-tech transmitter to send more Global Positioning System (GPS) readings on a daily basis and “make our monitoring more efficient and effective,” according to the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF).

The Davao City-based PEF deployed a team on June 29 to re-capture and replace the battery-powered GPS satellite transmitter harnessed unto SP with a solar-powered GPS-GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) tracker.

“The bird was so agile. It took days before the team finally planned for a solution,” said PEF biologist Rowell Taraya who headed the PEF and local government unit (LGU) team.

“Last July 9, SP was spotted (in Barangay Kalaneg) being mobbed by a flock of crows. It was tough for the team to divert SP’s attention for he was preoccupied with the birds,” Taraya said.

LGU photographer James Doctor said Sarangani Pride was flying from one tree to another.

“He was seen gliding over our team twice. The team put the trap near a Gmelina tree at the top of the mountain where he was last seen resting together with the crows,” Doctor said. “We saw SP flying over the trap at 1:23 pm. SP attempted to perch at the trap but the rope was prematurely pulled before SP was about to walk inside the trap.”

The team found an open area, a 45-degree slope which is ideal as trapping site, for a second attempt.

Around 1:45 pm SP glided to a tree near the trap looking at the food inside. Around 2 pm, SP was successfully trapped.

He was released less than an hour in custody after re-tagging and physical checkup.

Dr. Jayson Ybanez, research and conservation director of PEF, earlier asked Acting Mayor Tito Balazon for support. The LGU shouldered the costs of participation by LGU staff and local field guides, with some food provisions.

Mk87“Once the transmitter units are replaced, we can get more GPS location readings for SP (maximum of 20 GPS readings per day as opposed to a one reading per day with SP’s current transmitter) and more battery life for the unit (maximum of 10 years as opposed to only 3 years for his current unit),” Ybanez told the mayor.

“Doing so would make our monitoring more efficient and effective. Attaching a solar-powered unit would also allow us to monitor SP’s growth and development, hopefully until the bird becomes sexually mature and breeds.”

Meanwhile, during the July 10 management committee meeting of department heads at the Provincial Capitol, Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon reacted tersely to Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Rolando Tuballes who said, “I see a big opportunity of Maitum and Kiamba, the whole stretch of the forest could be declared as a wildlife sanctuary.”

“We need to do it already,” Governor Solon said. “There needs to be action doing it... declaring a watershed also and wildlife area.”

With the presence of Sarangani Pride in the area, “that is a hundred percent may eagle doon. That area should be protected,” Solon said.

SP has been recorded to be within the areas of barangays Batian, Upo and Kalaneg in the past months.

Biologist Taraya said a team was monitoring his activity and from time to time SP was fed for supplementary purposes.

“As a juvenile (aging about a year), SP still should depend on his parents,” Taraya said.

There have been records of hunting during the months prior to re-capture where he was monitored hunting snakes, rodents, and small skinks.

In February, Sarangani Pride’s first hunt was a Philippine Cobra pregnant with eggs, according to Ybanez. The bird also fed on rabbits during supplemental feeding.

“Sadly there have been no records on parent-to-juvenile encounters for the last five months but his hunting skills imply good survival indicator,” Taraya added.

The eagle was found on January 2 by Gibson Badal, a resident of Barangay Batian which is within Mt. Busa complex, a declared key biodiversity area and an important bird area. It is home to critically endangered, threatened, vulnerable and rare bird species.

The rescued eagle was rushed to the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos, Calinan on January 4. The bird was severely dehydrated, overly thin and with an imbedded pellet from a wound that had healed.

The rehabilitated juvenile Philippine Eagle was freed on January 31 in Sitio Lahac in the border of barangays Upo and Tuanadatu.

According to the PEF, the presence of the Philippine Eagle in Maitum “basically shows that this forest is still pristine and healthy and is worth conserving.”

Other than Sarangani, there are very few provinces across the country that have good forest cover and harbor eagle populations – Davao Oriental, Davao City, Bukidnon, Zamboanga, and some parts of Lanao. (Serafin N. Ramos Jr. /SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)

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