Manobo Tigwahanons asked to help monitor, ensure safety of released Philippine Eagle

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MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/ 25 April 2021) Volunteer forest guards and residents from the Manobo Tigwahanon communities in San Fernando town were tapped to monitor and help ensure the safety of Tagoyaman Fernando, the first Philippine Eagle released back to the wild this year.

Jayson Ibanez, PEF director for Research and Conservation, told BukidnonNews.Net via email that they did education campaigns, engagement of forest guards, and provided livelihood support to the community to help increase community commitment and participation to eagle conservation. 

Seven months after it was found caught in a trap, the community released the eagle back to the forest in Brgy. Magkalungay, San Fernando town on “Earth Day”, April 22, 2021 in rites attended by PEF, government officials and other personalities. The village is along Bukidnon's boundary with Davao del Norte. 

In between captive and release, however, was a story of animal rehabilitation and community preparation.

The PEF said Tagoyaman was brought to the Philippine Eagle Center for check-up and rehabilitation after it got caught in a trap intended for other animals.  Back then, Tagoyaman, a male eagle, weighed 3.9 kilograms.  

An X-ray capture showed an airgun pellet hit the eagle. It was also starving and dehydrated when rescued. But the PEF described the eagle as “well-muscled” and had “good general body condition”.                                                                                                 

Ibanez said prior to release, a joint effort by stakeholders recruited, trained and equipped 20 volunteer forest guards from the Manobo Tigwahanon community in Brgy Magkalungay. Among those who joined PEF in the effort were the local government unit of San Fernando, DENR Northern Mindanao and Valencia, and the Center for Biodiversity Research and Extension in Mindanao (CEBREM) of Central Mindanao University.

The volunteer forest guards, now called Malimomo Bantay Gubat (MBG), will take turns monitoring the eagle and keeping it safe. PEF biologists and the MBG volunteers can track the eagle using a solar-powered GPS tracker on its back.

Aside from the 20-person MBG, Ibanez said the PEF conducted education campaign to residents of nine communities living close to where the eagle was released. He said they asked the resident's help in keeping the eagle safe.

He said they used “Malaya” the Philippine Eagle Mascot in engaging both the adults and kids. They also showed a Cebuano-dubbed version of the Philippine Eagle documentary "Bird of Prey", a Cornell Lab of Ornithology (New York) film.

In an earlier interview, Ibanez said they are ensuring commitment from the community to prevent untoward incidents of released eagles being shot by locals. Philippine Eagles Kagsabua and Hineleban, were released and later killed in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Ibanez said aside from educating the folks about the eagle, they also assisted local leaders, including IP women and the youth. He said the locals received a small grant for backyard farming for food security.

This project, Ibanez added, was funded by the Australian Embassy in the Philippines. 

He said another small grant, from PLDT, was also given to the IP women of Brgy. Magkalungay for an enterprise called "Beadwork for conservation."

The PEF said the release was made possible through the support of the Australian Government, Whitley Fund for Nature, Jurong Bird Park, DENR Region X, and the local government of San Fernando and Bukidnon.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven J. Robinson AO, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, San Fernando Vice Mayor Norberto Catalan, and Philippine Eagle Foundation Trustee Mr. Francis Ledesma attended the release rites.

Dennis Salvador, PEF executive director, said in a press release that collaborations played a big role in Philippine Eagle conservation as the PEF needed help from local communities, government agencies, the private sector, and the Filipino people.

The PEF said Tagoyaman, is one of seven Philippine Eagles rescued in 2020, the highest rescue rate recorded in the history of Philippine Eagle conservation.   

Salvador said Tagoyaman’s release on Earth Day was a call for long-term solutions to “our problematic relationship with nature and wildlife”.

“We believe that by conserving the Philippine Eagle and the biodiversity it represents, we can avoid another disease outbreak,” he added. (BukidnonNews.Net)

IN PHOTO: Release of Tagoyaman Fernando on April 22, 2021. Courtesy of Fr. Conrad Cass FB Account 

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