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Multi-agency Collaboration Saved Philippine Eagle Rescued at Kabugao, Apayao

Updated: Apr 12

by Ma. Susana Legaspi and Dr. Jayson Ibañez

Philippine Eagle "Kabugao" in a temporary enclosure at Laoag City while her rehabilitation pen was being constructed at Brgy. Bulu, Kabugao, Apayao

Multiple Agencies Collaborated to save Philippine Eagle "Kabugao"

A composite team from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Local Governments of Apayao and Kabugao, the non-profit Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and concerned citizens nursed a “critically endangered” Philippine eagle back to health after the eagle was rescued from a farmer in Brgy Bulu of Kabugao town in Apayao last March 19. According to Ariel Puglay Silaw, a 38-year-old resident of Brgy. Bulu, he accidentally caught Philippine eagle “Nariha Kabugao” on March 16 in a nylon noose trap or “silo” he installed to capture wild pigs in the forests of Mt Mabagyaw. He then reported about the eagle to CENRO (Community Environment and Natural Resources Office) Conner staff on March 18. While in his custody, Ariel kept the bird in a small wooden crate, that is sealed with planks of wood. According to Ariel, he gave the eagle duck meat as food.

PEF Forester Guiler Opiso takes out the eagle from its very small crate cage (1/2); PEF Forester Guiler Opiso and Algen Agua restrain and put a hood to calm the eagle (2/2).

By 5 AM of March 19, 2024, PENRO (Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer) Apayao Rainier Balbuena, PEF staff: Guiller Opiso and Susana Legaspi, and Provincial Veterinarians in Apayao restrained and rescued the eagle. The bird was docile and did not resist capture, which indicates that the eagle is weak, possibly in pain. The team brought the distressed eagle in Laoag City for X-ray, medical assessment, and temporary rehabilitation.  

PEF Senior Biologist Rowell Taraya conducts a feather count on Nariha Kabugao (1/2 | Photo by: Jacky Ogay); PEF Senior Biologist Rowell Taraya on final preparations to transport Kabugao from Ogay residence to Laoag City Veterinary Clinic (2/2 | Photo by: PEF Biologist Ma. Susana Legaspi).

Physical Checkup

X-ray was conducted on “Nariha Kabugao” at the Ranada Hospital. Three air gun bullets lodged underneath the skin of the eagle were seen in the plates. The absence of fresh entry wounds suggest that the bird was shot a considerably long time ago. Fortunately, no bone fractures were noted. The physical examination was performed by Veterinarian couple Mary Jane and Cristopher Galvez of the Laoag City Veterinary Clinic, with PEF’s Veterinary Consultant Dr. Bayani Vandenbroeck teleconsulting via Google Meet from Davao City. DENR CAR staff Dorothy Cayaba and Marcos Bias assisted during the examination.

X-ray plate showing three airgun pellets (1/5 & 2/5); Bruise and swelling on the left leg with slight hematoma (3/5 & 4/5); Prominent brood patch on the abdominal area of “Nariha Kabugao" (5/5).

The eagle had its left shank (leg) inflamed with slight hematoma, ruffled feathers which are signs of stress, a prominent “brood patch” (an indication that the eagle is female and may be incubating an egg or brooding a very young chick when captured), and maggots and flies at its inguinal region. Dr.  Mary Jane and Cristopher Galvez administered first aid and then gave the eagle fluids, antibiotics, and vitamins.

Physical assessment of PE Nariha Kabugao at Laoag City Veterinary Clinic and the extraction of blood samples and cloacal & oral swab samples. (Photos by: PEF Biologist Ma. Susana Legaspi)

Dr. Mary Jane and Cristopher Galvez secured blood samples and cloacal and oral swabs. These samples were then brought to the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RADDL) of the Bureau of Animal Industry in Carig, Tuguegarao City for Avian Flu and New Castles Disease Screening. Some samples were also sent to the UP Diliman Institute of Biology in Quezon City for confirmatory DNA sexing.

PEF Field Biologist, Rowell Taraya, conducted a feather count. He found complete sets of left and right feather wings with a growing no. 2 primary feather at the right wing, and complete set of tail feathers with one distorted feather at the right side.

Temporary rehabilitation

While a proper rehabilitation pen was being constructed in Brgy. Bulu, Kabugao, Philippine Eagle "Nariha Kabugao", was taken to Laoag City, at the residence of Ms. Jacky Ogay. Nariha Kabugao stayed there from March 19-25 under the care of PEF Biologist Ma. Susana Legaspi. Nariha Kabugao was given 400 grams of beef on her first day, and 150-200 grams of rabbit meat on the following days. Nariha Kabugao was also given 50mg of Enrofloxacin (broad spectrum antibiotics) for the first three days, 0.2ml of Meloxicam (anti-inflammatory) for four days, and sustenance of Nutripet vitamins.

Remarkably, the bird showed signs of quick recovery while in Laoag City. From a generally docile bird during its rescue, the bird eventually became active and aggressive. From an admission weight of 5.75 kg right after its rescue, the bird’s weight increased to 6.0 kg by the time it was transported to Brgy. Bulu for the full rehabilitation.

Nariha Kabugao on the food platform of her rehabilitation pen at Brgy. Bulu, Kabugao. (Photo by: PEF Biologist Ma. Susana Legaspi)

Her daily behavioral repertoire also diversified to leaps from the ground to the perch and back, grabbing the cyclone wire and hanging by the wall for a minute or so. active cresting and occasional wing slaps whenever we approach the cage and provide food. The swelling at its left shank also subsided in just a few days, and it appears that he is no longer in pain.

Rehabilitation at Brgy Bulu

A more suitable rehabilitation pen was completed by Kabugao and Apayao LGU and the eagle was transferred from Laoag City to Brgy. Bulu, Kabugao, Apayao at around 8 pm on March 26. She was monitored on a daily basis by PEF staff and a rotation of personnel from DENR Apayao, CENRO Calanasan and CENRO Conner.

Nariha Kabugao has been observed to be very agile in her new enclosure; flying and leaping from the ground, perch, and food platform, and flying towards the screen of the cage in an apparent attempt to set itself free. She is restless. She has been able to consistently catch and handle live rabbits as prey on March 28, 30, and April 1. Afterwards, she was given 300 grams of rabbit and goat meat daily.

Release back to the wild

As of publishing of this article,Nariha Kabugao has fully recovered. BAI Region 2 conducted lab tests for Avian Flu and New Castles Disease, and Nariha Kabugao yielded negative results for the presence of these infections. She will be released back to her suspected territory in Kabugao on April 12. A solar-powered GPS-GSM tracker will be installed on her backpack style before her release.

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