Philippine Eagle rescued at Mt. Kalatungan, Bukidnon, undergoing rehabilitation at the Philippine Eagle Center

PEF team with representatives from DENR headed by PaSu Ner Doydoy, Xavier Science Foundation's Ms Thieza Verdijo, and volunteers of the Bantay sa Yutang Kabilin (BYK)

On the morning of February 24th, 2024, local residents of Sitio Balmar, Nabaliwa, Pangantucan, Bukidnon stumbled upon a weak eagle along Kiulayon ridge. Mr Dodong Watang, found an eagle trapped inside a vine thicket, unable to fly. He immediately called for help and the bird was promptly rescued by the forest guard volunteers from the Bantay sa Yutang Kabilin (BYK) association: Datu Nonoy Nonay and Fermin Daculay. To get further guidance on what to do with the eagle, Daculay sought the help of Mr. Elpedio Suclatan, Chairman of the local people’s organization Nagkahiusang Manubung Manununod sa Yutang Kabilin (NAMAMAYUK), Ms. Thieza Verdijo, Deputy Director of the Xavier Science Foundation, and the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) through Dr. Jayson Ibañez, PEF Director for Operations. PEF formed a response team consisting of: PEF Senior Animal Keeper Dominic Tadena, PEF Biologist Andrei Von Mariano Tirona, and Veterinary Consultant Dr. Sheen Erica Gadong, with the assistance of the PASu Ner Doydoy and the Protected Area Management Office (PAMO) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). They immediately traveled to Pangantucan on February 25 to administer first aid to the bird and stabilize its condition. 

Dodong Watang (center) managed to retrieve the distressed eagle in the forest on February 24

Upon close examination, the eagle was found to be a juvenile less than 2 years, and most likely male, weighing at only 3.45 kg. Dr. Gadong conducted an initial physical assessment to the bird and inspection showed signs of dehydration, its crop was empty (meaning it hasn’t fed for days), and it is evidently stressed. A superficial wound was found on the left wing of the eagle. To prepare the eagle for the trip back to Davao, Dr. Gadong gave him fluids and dextrose, and the team waited for its respiratory and heart rates to stabilize. 

Field assessment of the rescued Philippine Eagle Kalatungan by Dr Sheen Gadong, DVM. Photo by PEF Biologist Andrei Tirona

Kalatungan had a full assessment, including an X-ray at Doc Bayani’s Animal Wellness Clinic. Results show that 2 pellets are embedded in its body but the absence of exit wounds are evidence that the shooting happened a while back, possibly a few months ago. The pellets were immediately extracted by the vets through surgery. After extraction, blood and fecal samples were collected from the eagle for further blood chemistry and disease analyses, respectively. Blood samples will be sent to the UP Diliman Genetic Laboratory for confirmatory DNA sexing. 

Kalatungan undergoing Xray examination

X-ray results showing two lead pellets inside Kalatungan's body

Air gun pellets extracted after surgery

After completing the medical procedures, Kalatungan was brought to the hospital at the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) in Malagos, Davao City. Animal Keepers of our Conservation Breeding Program gave it 150 grams of pink meat (white rat embryos) then it was released into a holding cage, while the screening for Avian Flu, New Castle’s Disease and Aspergillosis is ongoing. Once it turns out to be negative, the bird will be transferred to a more isolated cage within the PEC. As of this writing, the bird continues to show good appetite and is responding well to rehabilitation procedures. 

Airguns continue to skirt the law 

PEF Director for Operations Dr. Jayson Ibañez wrote to the Regional Executive Director of Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Region X, Henry Adornado, PhD for their support and endorsement in lobbying with our law enforcement authorities (AFP and PNP, and their local counterparts) in a letter dated February 27, 2024. He cites the persistence of shooting incidents despite being claimed by authorities as "under control", "Air guns continue to imperil the life of our national bird. These weapons are not covered by the country’s Fire Arm law, and sales and trade of it go on unregulated. more eagles and wildlife are under a grave threat." said Dr. Ibañez. 

"Kalatungan" is the third case of a Philippine eagle getting harmed by airguns in Bukidnon, since 2019. The first case was Philippine eagle “Tagoyaman Fernando” - a rescued immature eagle in 2020 whose x-ray showed an air gun pellet lodged on its right wing. The second case was eagle “Sinabadan” who was shot and permanently injured with an air gun just last year. 

“This eagle is the 19th bird to be rescued and admitted at the PEC for medical care since 2019. Sadly, it is the 9th victim of eagle shooting in that cohort. It is alarming that in nearly all of these cases, air gun was the shooting weapon. It is technically not a firearm, thus is not regulated under the law (RA 10591). This lack of regulation and prevailing treatment of airguns as “toys” make it a very accessible tool for wildlife hunting and shooting, especially in the uplands where willdlife law enforcement is weak or almost non-existent”, capped Dr. Ibañez.