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Philippine Eagle “Kalatungan” rescue at Barangay Nabaliwa, Municipality of Pangantucan, Bukidnon

Updated: Feb 27

by Andrei Von Mariano C. Tirona, Dominic Tadena, & Jayson C. Ibanez



Field assessment of the rescued Philippine Eagle "Kalatungan" by Dr Sheen Gadong, DVM. Photo by PEF Biologist Andrei Tirona


On the morning of February 24th, 2024, Mr. Dodong Watang stumbled upon a weak eagle along Kiulayon ridge above the rivers Kaayatan nga Dako (big) and Kaayatan nga Gamay (small) in Sitio Balmar, Nabaliwa, Pangantucan, Bukidnon. According to Mr. Watang, the eagle was trapped inside a vine thicket and was unable to fly. He immediately called for help and the bird was promptly rescued by Datu Nonoy Nonay and Fermin Daculay, both are Forest Guard volunteers from the Bantay sa Yutang Kabilin (BYK) association.


The two rescuers placed the distressed Philippine Eagle "Kalatungan" inside the meeting hall in Sitio Balmar for temporary safekeeping. To get further guidance on what to do with the eagle, Daculay contacted Mr. Elpedio Suclatan, chairman of the local people’s organization Nagkahiusang Manubung Manununod sa Yutang Kabilin (NAMAMAYUK).


By coordinating with Ms Thieza Verdijo, Deputy Director of the Xavier Science Foundation, the locals sought assistance from the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) through Dr. Jayson Ibañez, our Director for Operations. We provided advice for immediate action, formed a quick response team. In the meantime, the eagle was relocated to a safer and quieter place to eliminate stress caused by curious bystanders.


On February 25, our team headed out to retrieve Kalatungan, led by PEF Senior Animal Keeper Dominic Tadena, with PEF Biologist Andrei Von Mariano Tirona, and Veterinary Consultant Dr. Sheen Erica Gadong, DVM. They travelled to Pangantucan to administer first aid on the bird and stabilize its condition. The team was assisted by the Protected Area Management Office (PAMO) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), led by Protected Area Superintendent (PASu) Ner Doydoy. The composite team arrived at around 11:00 AM and promptly administered assessment and first aid.


Upon examination of our team, Kalatungan was identified as a juvenile eagle, between 1.5 to 2 years of age. It is most likely male, based on a body weight of only 3.45 kg. The bird’s crop was empty, which indicate that the bird hasn't fed for days. Dr. Gadong gave the bird a Body Condition Score (BCS) of 3, meaning its muscles and fat are fairly within standards. But even though the bird is adequately muscled, it was dehydrated and was evidently stressed.


Dodong Watang (center) managed to retrieve the distressed eagle in the forest on February 24.


A close inspection of its body showed a superficial wound on the left wing, indicating potential injury or trauma. To stabilize the bird’s condition and provide sustenance for the four-hour drive to Davao City, Dr Gadong injected the bird with fluids and dextrose. After calming the bird and bringing down its vitals (respiratory and heart rates) to a safe level, we headed out with Kalatungan to Doc Bayani's Animal Wellness Clinic in Davao City for the comprehensive health assessment and treatment.


The team arrived at Doc Bayani’s clinic at around 5:20 PM, and a thorough assessment of the bird was undertaken. X-ray imaging showed two air gun pellets lodged inside the eagle's body, specifically above the right collar bone and at the right thigh region (Figure 3). The pellets were lodged just beneath the skin, and the absence of entry wounds indicate that the shooting happened a few months back. Dr Bayani Vandenbroeck, PEF’s Chief Veterinary Consultant surgically removed the lead pellets from Kalatungan's body.


Special attention was given to minimize trauma and ensure Kalatungan's well-being throughout the process. After the lead pellets were successfully removed, blood and fecal samples were collected for further blood chemistry and disease analyses, respectively. Blood samples will be sent also to the UP Diliman Genetic Laboratory for confirmatory DNA sexing. 


A) "Kalatungan" undergoing X-ray examination; B) X-ray results showing two lead pellets inside Kalatungan's body;

C) The pellet embedded beneath the skin of the Kalatungan's right shoulder; D) Air gun pellets extracted after surgery.


Upon finishing the medical procedures, Kalatungan was transferred to his isolation and rehabilitation pen at the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) in Malagos, Davao City. Before it was released to its new cage, our Animal Keeper fed it with 150 grams of pink meat (white rat embryos), which Kalatungan consumed right away. As of this writing, Kalatungan continues to show good appetite and is responding well to rehabilitation procedures.  The screening for Avian Flu, New Castle’s Disease and Aspergillosis is ongoing but when test results are negative, Kalatungan will be transferred to an isolated cage inside the PEC.



Air-gun: skirting the law for half a decade


Today (02/27/2024), PEF Director for Operations Dr. Jayson Ibañez wrote to the Regional Executive Director of

Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Region X, Henry Adornado, PhD for their support and endorsement in lobbying with our law enforcement authorities (AFP and PNP, and their local counterparts). In the letter he cites the persistence of shooting incidents despite being claimed by authorities as "under control", "This eagle is the 19th bird to be rescued and admitted at the PEC for medical care since 2019. Sadly, it is the 9th victim of eagle shooting in that cohort. It is alarming that in nearly all of these cases, air gun was the shooting weapon. It is technically not a firearm, thus is not regulated under the law (RA 10591). This lack of regulation and prevailing treatment of airguns as “toys” make it a very accessible tool for wildlife hunting and shooting, especially in the uplands where willdlife law enforcement is weak or almost non-existent."


"Kalatungan" is the third case of a Philippine eagle getting harmed by airguns in Bukidnon, since 2019. The first case was Philippine eagle “Tagoyaman Fernando” - a rescued immature eagle in 2020 whose x-ray showed an air gun pellet lodged on its right wing. The second case was eagle “Sinabadan” who was shot and permanently injured with an air gun just last year.   

 

"Air guns continue to imperil the life of our national bird. These weapons are not covered by the country’s Fire Arm law, and sales and trade of it go on unregulated. more eagles and wildlife are under a grave threat." said Dr. Ibañez.



Acknowledgements


We thank Xavier Science Foundation Deputy Director Thieza Verdijo and her team, as well as Protected Area Superintendent Ner Doydoy and his team from the Mt Kalatungan Protected Area Management Office for their prompt response and invaluable assistance. We commend the efforts of Datu Nonoy Nonay and Fermin Daculay, and the rest of the community volunteers from the Bantay sa Yutang Kabilin (BYK) association of Mt Kalatungan for urgently taking action in saving the eagle. Thank you, as well, to Chairman Elpedio Suclatan and the Nagkahiusang Manubung Manununod sa Yutang Kabilin (NAMAMAYUK) People’s Organization.





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