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Bird on a wire: Groups protect Philippine eagles from power lines

Lucelle Bonzo

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Bird on a wire: Groups protect Philippine eagles from power lines

SPREAD. A Philippine eagle spreads its wings.

Philippine Eagle Foundation

Arakan town sets an example and takes a small step for wildlife conservation using insulated power lines to prevent accidental electrocutions of Philippine eagles

DAVAO CITY, Philippines –  The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), along with the local government of Arakan and Cotabato Electric Cooperative Incorporated (COTELCO), installed an insulated powerline at Tumanding village in Arakan town, Cotabato province, to avoid a repeat of the accidental electrocution of an eagle five years ago.

Tragedy struck in the lush forests of Tumanding village in Arakan town on December 15, 2018, when a young male Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), one of the rarest and most majestic birds on the planet, was found dead with alarming injuries. 

The eagle had been spotted just a meter away from a concrete electric post owned by COTELCO by a Lanao Kuran village resident.

Upon closer examination, it became clear that the bird had suffered burns on its left wing and right foot. A one-centimeter hole was also found in its food pad, and the bird had sustained a compound fracture along with ruptured organs. 

The cause of the tragedy was soon uncovered – the power pole where the bird had landed had a bare, non-insulated secondary line that carried a staggering 220 volts of electricity.

The news of the eagle’s death spread quickly, and PEF and local officials sprang into action.

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After five years, a long-awaited solution was finally installed – an insulated powerline at Tumanding village in Arakan town which, officials said, was a measure taken to prevent any further wildlife deaths caused by accidental contact with power lines.

Dr. Toru Yamazaki of the Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network played a vital role in raising funds for the purchase and installation of the first 1.5-kilometer insulated wire. 

The retrofitted powerline system was launched on March 24, 2023, at Sitio Bagtok in Tumanding village, and installation will be completed by June of this year.

In 2021, the Arakan Municipal Council passed an ordinance that advocated for more proactive measures to secure the nesting territory of at least two of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s critically-endangered Philippine eagles within Arakan town. 

The municipal law, which officially declared the Philippine eagle as the “flagship species” or “bird jewels” of Arakan, provides for Its protection and conservation and imposes penalties for violations.

The majestic bird, also known as the monkey-eating eagle, has been a symbol of the country’s rich biodiversity and cultural heritage and is considered a national treasure. The image of the Philippine eagle is printed on recently-circulated P1,000 bills.

Arakan town is home to Mount Sinaka, a forest reserve sanctuary and the smallest Philippine Eagle nesting habitat in the world, with only less than 2,000 hectares of forest cover. 

In 1995, PEF validated a Philippine eagle family at Mount Sinaka, marking the start of education, forest protection, restoration projects, and livelihood support to the surrounding local communities to become responsible neighbors to the eagles.

“We’re very proud of these local partnerships. Through the communities’ careful watch and stewardship across the years, at least 11 eagles hatched successfully at Mount Sinaka,” said PEF executive director Dennis Salvador. 

Mount Sinaka is also known as the habitat of civet cats, wild pigs and deer, the Mindanao brown-dove, Philippine macaques, Philippine hawk-eagle, and the Philippine leafbird. – Rappler.com

Lucelle Bonzo is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.

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