environmental conservation

Preserved Philippine eagle unveiled at the National Museum

Iya Gozum

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Preserved Philippine eagle unveiled at the National Museum

TAXIDERMY. Profile of the preserved Geothermica, one of two Philippine eagles flown to Singapore in 2019.

Iya Gozum/Rappler

Geothermica, also known as Geo, was one of two Philippine eagles loaned to Singapore in 2019 and housed at Jurong Bird Park

MANILA, Philippines – The National Museum of Natural History unveiled on Wednesday, June 5, the taxidermy of a Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jeferryi) named Geothermica.

Geothermica, also known as Geo, was one of two Philippine eagles housed at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore under a wildlife loan agreement with Mandai Reserves Singapore (then called Wildlife Reserves Singapore) since 2019.

Geo died on September 7, 2023, at the age of 19, due to severe lung infection.

He was hatched in 2004 at the breeding facility of the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao. Accompanying Geo to Jurong Bird Park five years ago was his partner Sambisig (Sam).

The preserved eagle was unveiled at the Shell Philippines Centennial Upper Courtyard, led by National Museum’s director general Jeremy Barns, Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga, Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) chairman Edgar Chua, Boeing Southeast interim president Nell Breckenridge, and Energy Development Corporation’s Nancy Ibuna.

“Geo and Sam served as Species Ambassadors in Singapore, attracting over 1.2 million visitors worldwide,” the description beside the preserved bird reads.

“The pair raised awareness of the importance of global cooperation to conserve endangered species and showcased the Philippines’ foremost national symbol.”

Architecture, Building, Indoors
UNVEILING. From left to right, Boeing Southeast interim president Nell Breckenridge, Philippine Eagle Foundation chairman Edgar Chua, Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga, National Museum director general Jeremy Barns, and Energy Development Corporation’s Nancy Ibuna led the unveiling of the taxidermy on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Animal loan agreements is practiced in the field of conservation around the world.

According to Jayson Ibañez, director at PEF, transferring endangered species to other facilities might seem counterintuitive but is actually a way of managing risks.

“Ideally, if you’re doing conservation breeding of a critically endangered species, the international standard is that you should distribute your birds to different facilities to prevent what they call the all-egg-in-one-basket syndrome,” Ibañez told Rappler on Wednesday.

“So, just imagine if you have, let’s say 36 Philippine eagles, all in Davao City in one facility,” he added. “And then a disease like bird flu descended on this population. There’s a chance that your population would get wiped out.”

It took almost a decade before the loan agreement between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Mandai Reserves Singapore was signed in 2019.

It was the agreement’s novelty that slowed down the process. Ibañez said they had to lobby with the government and conduct feasibility studies before they were able to send the birds to Singapore.

“You can expect that for pioneering activities,” he said.

At that time, the Philippines and Singapore were celebrating 50 years of diplomatic ties.

Geo and Sam went to Singapore via Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight PR 507, flown by Stanley Ng who is now president of PAL.

“It was really exciting for us because it’s not always easy to transport animals,” said Ng after the unveiling.

Given how important the success of the flight was to the success of the program, Ng said “there’s a lot of pressure [for] the team” then.

Along with the unveiling of Geo is an exhibit that features other birds such as Nariha Kabugao and the efforts to translocate two eagles from Mindanao to Leyte.

According to the PEF, 392 pairs of Philippine eagles remain. Ibañez said there are ongoing plans to loan another Philippine eagle to Singapore as Sam is currently “living alone.” – Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.