Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje renewed his call for Filipinos to help in the fight to save and protect the majestic Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), as the nation celebrates the Philippine Eagle Week (PEW) from June 4-10.

This developed as the juvenile Philippine eagle earlier rescued after being accidentally caught in a trap in Aurora province was formally turned over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday, giving conservationists hope for the critically endangered raptor.

“The Philippine eagle is a unique heritage, found only in this part of the world that needs to be nurtured as it is the Filipino people’s gift to the global community,” Paje said, as the DENR gears up for the weeklong celebration of PEW, with the theme “Saving eagles, Protecting forests, Securing our future: Stop the Killings.”

According to the environment chief, the Philippine eagle has continued to brave the challenges to its survival, particularly habitat destruction and hunting.

The wildlife conservation community has been shocked with recent news of Philippine eagles being killed, the latest of which was Pamana, a three-year-old raptor that was found with a bullet hole in its right breast in Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, in August last year.

“There is a need to usher in a renewed commitment to protect the eagle and other wildlife from extinction and allow them to perpetuate for future generations,” Paje pointed out.

He added: “If we wish to sustain our ecosystems that support human lives, we need to embrace a new paradigm that upholds respect for all forms of wildlife, not only as food source but more so as co-creatures worthy of preservation.”

Meanwhile, the rescued juvenile Philippine eagle was received by the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), which is now assessing the raptor before transferring it to a cage inside the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) in Quezon City for rehabilitation.

The eagle was brought to the NAPWC by DENR community officer Jimmy Aberin all the way from Dingalan town in Aurora. Aberin said the raptor was accidentally ensnared in a trap meant to catch monkeys in a forested area in the nearby town of San Luis.

The trapper, a certain upland farmer named Eugene, rescued the eagle and later sought help from their barangay captain who promptly informed the DENR.

BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim was pleased with the rescue of the eagle, which seemed relatively unharmed, saying it “bodes well for the country’s conservation program.”

She commended the locals for showing their awareness of the Philippine eagle, including the possible consequences of keeping it captive.

The magnificent raptor is considered the country’s national bird and is protected by Philippine laws particularly Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

Under the law, killing or harming the eagle, considered to be critically endangered, carries maximum penalties of 12 years imprisonment and a fine of P1 million.

“The presence of a healthy juvenile eagle in Aurora means that a pair of adult eagles has successfully bred and raised their young as well as our hopes for the species’ continued presence in the Sierra Madre region,” Lim said.

The BMB chief also underscored the importance of protecting known habitats of the world’s largest eagle. “This is a species which largely depends on the availability of viable forest habitats to survive. We should therefore do all we can to protect and increase our forest cover.”

To enhance public awareness on the country’s flagship endemic species, the BMB has collaborated with the management of Enchanted Kingdom (EK) in Sta. Rosa Laguna for the PEW’s kickoff program on June 4.

Fun learning activities have been prepared by the EK production team, including an Agila costume contest, online art competition, eagle dance parade, interactive storytelling, the “Agilaro Challenge” that mimics the Amazing Race, and a Philippine eagle photo exhibit.

The festivities will be covered and featured on ABS-CBN’s science-environmental educational program “Matanglawin.”

The NAPWC will also host educational activities on June 4 and 5. The BMB, in partnership with the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, will hold coloring, face painting, guided tour and storytelling activities for kids.

DENR field offices nationwide are likewise scheduled to carry out intensified campaigns on the conservation of the Philippine eagle.

The celebration of June 4-10 as Philippine Eagle Week was declared through Presidential Proclamation No. 79 issued in 1999. ###