By Joselle R. Badilla, 24th February 2016;
Matatag, the rehabilitated Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) that was released to the wild last year, was shot and wounded by a farmer in a hinterland village in Baguio District here Sunday morning.
The adult male eagle was released in Mt. Apo in 2015. It moved 13 kilometers north from his release area to the territorial borders of the Obu Manuvu community in Barangay Carmen, Baguio District here.
On Sunday morning, however, a farmer brought the wounded Eagle to the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) in Malagos, admitting that he shot it with his .22 caliber rifle.
The farmer, Tiburcio Aparesio, 24, said he accidentally shot the bird and brought it to the center after realizing it was an Eagle.
Dr. Anna Lascano, the center’s veterinarian, said initial results showed Matatag was hit in the right wing.
Chief Insp. Leonardo Pamplona, Baguio District Police precinct commander, said the center called the precinct and informed them an Eagle was shot and the shooter brought the Eagle to center.
“We went there and brought Aparesio to the police station. But on Monday morning, Aparesio’s younger brother Rolando showed up at the station and claimed that he was the one who shot the Eagle,” Pamplona told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview.
The brothers are now detained at the station for violation of Republic Act 9147, also known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, according to Pamplona.
“We already filed the case yesterday (Tuesday, Feb. 23) and we are just waiting for an update from the prosecutor’s office,” Pamplona said.
But the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) said a witness supported Rolando’s claim that he shot the Eagle.
Matatag was still under observation, as of Wednesday, but appeared to be responding well to medication, Lascano said.
Matatag was released back to the ancestral forests of the indigenous Obu Manuvu tribe over a year ago after three years of rehabilitation of the center. In April 2011, a very weak Matatag was turned over to the center.
Dennis Salvador, PEF executive director said the shooting only underscored problems complicating efforts to save the Philippine Eagle from extinction amid the continuing decline in its population even in the most protected territories.
Salvador called on Filipinos to be more involved in the protection of Philippine raptors.
“We cannot be complacent. The protection of our national bird cannot be left to our forest guards but should be the responsibility of everyone,” he said.
Jayson Ibañez, PEF research director, said the Obu Manuvu community in Barangay Carmen has been monitoring Matatag for over a year and kept the Eagle safe until a farmer shot him.
Ibañez, in his assessment report, said through the elders’ consensus, Matatag was sanctified as the group’s “Pusaka” prior to his release.
“Pusaka is the Obu Manuvus’ practice of declaring possessions, living or non-living, as very valuable to the family. The word loosely translates to an "heirloom” or “heritage.” As a Pusaka, protecting Matatag therefore became a village duty,“ he said.
The Philippine Eagle is considered an endangered species because of its rapidly declining population.
The PEF is responsible for breeding the Eagle Pag-asa in 1992 and 26 other Philippine Eagles at the center.
The PEF’s breeding program is intended to supplement Eagle populations in the wild by replacing those lost to hunting and by reintroducing captive-bred birds to vacant habitats and habitats occupied by unpaired wild Eagles.
At least 400 pairs of Philippine Eagles remain in the wild, according to estimates from both the government and private conservation groups.