Dr. Jayson Ibañez, PEF Director for Research and Conservation
Philippine eagle Salabanog x-ray showing the marble in red circle and airgun pellet inside black circle lodged inside its right shoulder
Barely recovering from the bittersweet rescue and rehabilitation of seven Philippine eagles in 2020, and the death on January 6 of its beloved Philippine eagle “Pag-asa”, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) admitted its first wild Philippine eagle patient for 2021.
Named Salagbanog by its rescuers from Maitum town in Sarangani Province, the immature (3-4 years old) Philippine eagle was handed over by DENR personnel to PEF’s veterinary consultant Ana Lascano, Animal Keeper Adriano Oxales, and Field Technician Rene Baquiano, at the border of Malungon town and General Santos City on January 9.
Beth Ramos, former Maitum Municipal Treasurer, now consultant, called the PEF on the morning of the same day about the captive eagle. The bird was then at the residence of Maitum Mayor Bryan Reganit for safekeeping.
Immediately, the PEF rescue team left Davao City. While in transit, we called the DENR team who was stationed close to Maitum. And luckily, the DENR was already on their way to Mayor Reganit’s residence after getting the same news from a Maitum official.
So as not to stress further the apparently distressed bird, we asked DENR’s Edgar Calderon and his team to safely restrain and begin transporting the bird. Employing basic eagle first-aid procedures, they covered the bird’s eyes with a temporary blindfold, wrapped its body with soft cloth, and secured its talons with soft adhesive tape.
With the bird calm and immobilized, it was easy and safe for DENR to transport the eagle until they meet the PEF rescue team. Barely three hours since they left Davao City, the PEF team rendezvoused with DENR at Malungon. There, Veterinarian Lascano replaced the blindfold with the standard leather hood, and the temporary body wrap with elastic bandage. And before nightfall, the bird’s x-ray and physical tests were already complete.
Routine assessment showed that the bird had a Body Condition Score (BCS) of 3. This means that the bird is well-muscled, and in good form. It weighed 4.14 kgs, which suggests that it is male.
But the bird was slightly dehydrated, and its crop – the temporary food storage in a bird’s digestive tract – was empty. These meant that the eagle has not eaten for days.
Its tail and wing feathers were complete and had no feather mites, fleas, or other ectoparasites. Its tail and wings were covered in.
We suspect that the leaf debris and mud covering its tail and wings were from being carried and manhandled for two days; from the mountains to the captor’s village, then to the Mayor’s residence.
Fortunately, the bird had no wounds nor broken bones. But, x-ray showed a “jolen” or marble lodged between the muscle and just beneath the skin on its right shoulder. Lascano was able to feel the marble by touch.
On the same shoulder but closer to the neck, an airgun pellet was also visible. No entry wound was seen for both the marble and the pellet, which means the punctures from the shooting have healed.
This is our first ever case of a marble lodged inside the body of a Philippine eagle. We had a similar case last year, but it was with a Pinsker’s hawk eagle (Nisaetus pinskeri). The poor bird had a marble lodge inside its chest muscles. Our breeding team removed the marble surgically and the hawk-eagle recuperated.
T’boli farmer Mang Gamang of Barangay Ticulab. Maitum, Sarangani Province rescued the eagle on the afternoon of January 8. The bird, as reported, was entangled in a thorny vine near Salabanog Falls. When we interviewed him, Gamang claimed that marble or “jolen” guns are common as improvised firearms for hunting wildlife, especially in the Maitum uplands.
A surgery will be scheduled to remove the marble from the eagle’s shoulder once the bird regains its strength and its condition normalizes.
Meanwhile, the PEF’s Research and Conservation team, together with LGU Maitum officials and DENR are planning to do education outreach at Ticulab, and nearby areas as soon as the heavy rains ease up.