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The Successful Rescue of the One-eyed Philippine Eagle at Lipadas River, Mt Apo, Davao City

Updated: Feb 6


Philippine Eagle "Lipadas" perched on a tree along the riverbanks of Lipadas River, Davao City.

Photo by PEF Senior Biologist Rowell Taraya.


On October 9, 2022, Bagobo Klata leader Datu Mariano Daug alerted the PEF about a wild Philippine Eagle that was spotted along Lipadas River in Davao City. Datu Daug narrated that last October 4, locals saw the eagle after it crash landed on the forest floor. When they attempted to approach it, the eagle suddenly flew off to a nearby tree. The place where they saw the eaglet is a known Philippine eagle nesting territory that was confirmed in 2018. Back then, our team documented a young eagle that recently flew away from its nest together with its eagle parents. Thereafter, the site has been monitored with the help of the Bagobo-Klata and Bagobo-Tagabawa Bantay Bukid Volunteers from Davao City.


During a month-long fieldwork in 2022, the then 10-month-old eaglet was photographed and a right eye injury was confirmed. A close inspection of the photos showed an abnormal right eye with fluid leaking out of it. Although the young eagle is capable of flight, its mobility - namely its movement from tree to tree - appeared awkward. Through a Gratuitous Permit issued by the DENR, a composite team of PEF Biologist, DENR personnel, and Bantay Bukid partners attempted to trap the eaglet. 


The young eagle/eaglet is still incapable of flying to the ground to catch the bait (Rabbit) and was very dependent on its parents for food. This eaglet was frequently heard making “food begging” calls.  


Last November 2023, our forest guards saw the young eagle as it called vigorously, “begging” food from its parents. The bird is now approximately two years old and should have already left its parent’s territory or what is also known as "fledging". Healthy eaglets in the wild that are of the same age would be fully independent and have already fledged at this age. But perhaps due to its eye injury, Philippine eagle “Lipadas” remained dependent on its parents for nourishment. 



Concerned that the young eagle is severely starving, the team provided supplemental food. Fortunately, last November 19, 2023, the young flew down to the ground, and killed and ate the rabbit (see Figure 1). This confirmed that the young can now confidently fly and hunt on the ground. We continued supplemental feeding to help the bird get used to the bait. This will eventually increase the chances of safely trapping and rescuing the eagle in December. By then, hoping the DENR trapping permit has been renewed. 


*This activity report describes the successful trapping and rescue of the one-eyed Philippine Eagle last at Lipadas River on January 2, 2024. 



RESULTS OF THE ACTIVITY


A new Gratuitous Permit (GP) for trapping was issued in December 14, but the young eagle which we have named “Lipadas” has been away from our designated trapping stations. Since the eaglet was already two years old, we were worried that it might have left the territory.


Starting December 19, 2023 our forest guards consistently left rabbits on a feeding site, hoping that it would lure the young eagle back to the nest site. Playbacks of recorded Philippine eagle calls were also broadcasted to attract it. To the team’s delight, the young eagle came back. By then, our PEF Biologists have already taken their Holiday Leaves, hence, the trapping was re-scheduled for January 2023. But to sustain the interest of the young eagle to stay close to our trapping stations, we requested our resident forest guards to continue providing the eaglet with supplemental food until our Biologists arrive to do the trapping. 


Since December 19, the young eagle hunted and ate six rabbits in total (Dec 19, 20, 22, 28, 29 and January 1, 2024). All of these came from our food stock facility at the Philippine Eagle Center and were ensured to be clean and safe for the wild eagle. 


Around the last week of December, our resident forest guards got complaints from their fellow villagers that eagle “Lipadas” has begun feeding on native chickens. Local farmers expressed their concern regarding the eagle hunting their livestock. In response, we decided to schedule an emergency trapping activity and attempt a rescue on January 2, 2024. The trapping team consisted of the following personnel:

  1. Dr. Jayson Ibanez – PEF, Director for Operations

  2. Mr. Ron Taraya – PEF, Senior Biologist

  3. Dr. Bayani Van den Broeck – Veterinary Consultant

  4. Mr. Erwin Mascarinas – Photographer/Videographer

  5. Ms. Ivy Mangadlao – Photographer/Videographer

  6. Mr. Philip Malindog – PEF, on-call Biologist

  7. Mr. Christian Tan – Forest Guard, Bagobo Klata

  8. Mr. Felipe Daug – IP sitio leader

  9. Mr. Dominic Tadena – Senior Animal Keeper

  10. Mr. Jay-are Montecino – Animal Keeper

  11. Mr. Adriano Oxales – Animal Keeper

The team was deployed on January 1, 2024, to monitor the bird and activate our trapping stations. The eaglet took one of the rabbit lures at around 1100 hours. That night, the team installed the traps and also observation and trigger hides for the trapping activity the next day. 


Under the cold morning drizzles, the team occupied their respective trapping stations on January 2. One trapping hide housed the team that will restrain the bird, together with one photographer. Another hide housed the personnel who will manually trigger the bow trap. A third team occupied a post away from the trap site, but has a view of the whole forest. This team was tasked to provide feedback about any eagle activity around the trap site through a two-way radio. 


After several hours of waiting, our look out saw the eagle just a few meters above the trap site at around noontime. Through two-way radios, all members were alerted that the eagle was nearby, and were instructed to stay still and quiet.  Finally, at around 1215 hours, the one-eyed eagle jumped from its perched and landed directly at the center of the trap where it grabbed the bait. From our hide (restraint hide), we saw the “good eye” of the eagle looking towards our direction. In contrast, the “bad eye” was oriented towards the direction of the “trigger hide”. From our restraint hide, we calmly radioed our “trigger man” and gave him the go signal to to pull the rope and trigger the trap. After a few seconds of anticipation that felt like forever, the trap snapped and the eagle was safely caught. 



Restraining Philippine Eagle Lipadas to ensure its safety during transport to the veterinary clinic for a full physical assessment.

Photo by Erwin Mascariñas


Using standard procedures, the team calmly restrained the eagle. Its eyes were covered with a leather hood, and its talons and beak wrapped in masking tapes. The wings were also restrained close to its body through a “body wrap”. We quickly inspected the bird for any signs of injury or wound. Seeing there was none and that the bird remained calm and stable, we slowly walked the bird upslope towards where a vehicle was waiting for its transport to Dr Bayani’s Animal Wellness Clinic for thorough assessment. 



Dr Bayani Vandenbroeck drawing blood for confirmatory DNA sexing and blood chemistry analysis.

Photo by Ivy Marie Mangadlao


The team reached the clinic at around 2:00 PM and Dr. Bayani Vandenbroeck together with our captive breeding team undertook a thorough physical assessment. The bird weighed 4.3 kgs, which indicates that it is a male eagle. As part of the protocol, blood samples were drawn out for confirmatory DNA sexing as well for blood chemistry analysis. Both tail and flight feathers were complete but a few molted feathers have started to grow. The bird had no ectoparasite.


Dr. Vandenbroeck's initial assessment is as follows: “Eagle seems to be healthy except the blind (right) eye. Eyeball is completely gone on the right side. On the left, externally the eye appears normal but inside it seems changes are happening. Also, the eagle might eventually be completely blind….But no bullet wounds or evidence of any other recent physical injuries. Bones seem intact also; no evidence of fractures. Body condition score is 4/5, and (bird) appears to have extra fats.”


A final veterinary report will be shared by Dr. Bayani as soon as the full blood chemistry analysis has been completed.   



Philippine eagle "Lipadas" received his first ration of 150 grams of pink meat after arriving at the quarantine facility of the Philippine Eagle Center. Thereafter, a daily ration of rabbit meat (about 150 - 200 g) will be provided. Photos by: Erwin Mascarinas


At past 3:00 PM, the team left Dr. Bayani’s clinic with the bird and transported it to the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos, Davao City. Before it was transferred to its quarantine and holding cage, the bird was force-fed with 150 g of pink meat (white rat embryos). At past 6:00 PM, the bird was released to the safety of its cage. At first, the bird stayed on the ground, but at around 9:00 PM, it went up the perch and stayed there the whole night.





IMMEDIATE PLANS


The bird will undergo rehabilitation at the PEC Quarantine Facility. After the full blood chemistry analysis is complete, supplemental food, vitamins and medicines will be provided as needed. For instance, if blood analysis showed infection, appropriate anti-biotics will be provided. Blood samples will be sent also to the Institute of Biology Laboratory in UP Diliman for confirmatory DNA sexing. Further help/assessment will be sought from a resident Opthalmologist and foreign experts in order to determine the appropriate intervention (or non-intervention) for the eye. The next scheduled full examination of the bird will be on February 5, 2024.  


A full veterinary report will be provided also by Dr. Bayani.   




ACKNOWLEDGEMENT


We thank PENRO Davao del Sur, the Mt Apo Protected Area Management Office, and CENRO Davao City for the endorsements in support of the trapping and rescue activity. We thank DENR XI for the re-issuance of the trapping and rescue Gratuitous Permit (WGP No. XI-2023-56). We also thank the Bagobo Klata Indigenous Political Structure (IPS), the Bagobo Tagabawa IPS of Toril, and Barangay Captain Generoso Bacalso for their endorsements and support. Finally, we thank the forest guards of the Bagobo Tagabawa of Toril and the Bagobo Klata of Sirib and Manuel Guianga for diligently monitoring young eagle “Lipadas” until his safe capture last January 2, 2024. 






REFERENCES


Bibby, C., Jones, C. M. & Marsden, S., 1998. Expedition Field techniques: Bird Surveys. London: Expedition Advisory Center Royal Geographical.


DENR, 2019. Updated National List of Threatened Philippine Fauna and their Categories. Quezon City: DENR Administrative Order.


Hutoo, R. L., Plerschet, S. M. & Paul, H., 1986. A Fixed -radius Point Count Method for Nonbreeding and Breeding Season Use. The Auk, Volume 103, pp. 593-609.



Jensen, A. et al., 2019. Checklist of Birds of the Philippines 2019. [Online] Available at: /WBCP-checklist-2019.xlsx&ved=2ahUKEwjC7M7Dm_3kAhUC_GEKHarxDBIQFjABegQIBRAH&usg=AOvVaw3-EGxpL2UtdjbcRgDVQNKc[Accessed 31 July 2019].


Kennedy, R. et al., 2000. A guide to the birds of the Philippines. s.l.:Oxford.


Kenward, R., 1987. Telemetry in Studeis of Predation, Dispersal and Demography. Journal on Raptor Research, 4(21), pp. 139-141.


Microwave Telemetry, 2018. LC4 PTT-100 Fie;d Manual. MaryLand: Microwave Telemetry Incorporation.


Miranda, H. & Ibanez, J., 2006. A modified Bal ChaTri for capturing Great Philippine Eagles for Radiotelemetry. The Journal of Raptor Research , pp. 235-237.


Philippine Eagle Foundation, 2009. Raptor Research and Management Techniques with a focus on Philippine Eagle. Davao City: PEF.


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