The Philippine Eagle, one of the largest eagle species in the world, is probably best known for its incredible ability to carry away creatures as large as monkeys(1). It is said by the Bagobo Tagabawa people that a banog (great eagle) once carried a man away to its nest before having an eaglet. This eaglet then became friends with the man and eventually returned him to his people. The man then named his son, who would be the founder of the first Tagabawa villages, after this eagle. The title of Datu Banog is still used for many leaders in this culture who have special wisdom and courage(1).
The Philippine eagle is the second largest eagle species in the world (beaten, in bulk, by the harpy eagle but still winning in height) and weighs anywhere between eight to seventeen pounds and stands roughly a meter tall(2), with an average wingspan of 6.5 feet(1). Its colorations are your basic variations of brown with a white underbelly (nothing special there) but this eagle does display an impressive feather-crest around its face and neck which is frequently described as a main or a warlike headdress. It utilizes a large, curved, black beak for tearing at meat and prey, and it has been described as having blue eyes, although that is not always the case.
Of course, this creature does face critical endangerment with only 400 of them remaining in the wild, dispersed over four of the 6,000 Philippine islands, Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao. As is the case for many endangered species, the Philippine eagles’ greatest threat is deforestation. Having lost 75% of their forests, the Philippines are home to prized tropical hardwood trees among illegal loggers; the same trees that the eagles nest in. It doesn’t help that females only lay one egg every two years, and that the eaglet remains with its parents for a year and a half; there isn’t much opportunity for recovery. As the now grown eagle roams on its own for four years until it reaches sexual maturity, it tends to aggravate farmers by frequently preying on their livestock and even small dogs. This results in many farmers declining the opportunity to help these eagles through agroforestry and by guarding the area from poachers. Nor could one blame them. After all, why would they help something that is impairing their way of life? Therefor, economic incentives have routinely been offered to these farmers by conservation agencies and they are often quite effective(1).
The Importance of the Philippine Eagle
The Philippine eagle is the top predator of the Philippines, keeping its entire ecosystem balanced. The loss of this vital link would result in the immediate entanglement of the food web, and would cause some severe issues for the people and animals of the Philippines. Not only is this eagle necessary for the health of its environment, it also serves as a major component of the Philippine culture and mythology. In addition, this creature attracts so much tourism that is even plays a role in the Philippine economy!(3)
How Can We Help?
Although the help that we can personally offer these eagles is extremely limited, there are a number of conservation efforts to which we can donate in hopes of further protection for the Philippine eagles’ habitat, as well as further educational opportunities for those who do have hands-on opportunities, such as the Philippine Eagle Foundation, and other efforts that can be found through the Whitney Fund for Nature. We have conquered nature in many ways and we have the ability, the responsibility, to save it whenever a savior may be required.