Philippine eagle image; Credit: © Shutterstock
More or less the
longest eagle known, the great Philippine eagle, Pithecophaga jefferyi is also critically-endangered. The Whitley Awards celebrate their 20th anniversary this year by giving their prestigious gongs to 7 experts who have contributed much to the conservation of animals like this.
Elephants, the Indian bustard, South American monkeys, giant armadillos, gorillas, orangutans and even a people, plants and pollinators project also figure among the magnificent seven award-holders. Detail of such dedicated work is all-important, to be found here, for all awards since 2011, with accompanying photographs.
The eagle is one of the most critical cases of conservation we face, notwithstanding the obvious big feature animals such as the elephants and orangs included in Whitley this year. Mindanao is a large island, with many ethnic groups, selling their land to entrepreneurs as often happens in poor rural communities. The resultant loss of habitat for large predators has impacted the Philippine eagle heavily. The few remaining nest sites (7 are going to be protected) have to be heavily protected, largely against the ignorance of those who have lost animals to the great bird.
Jayson Ibanez is the Philippine Eagle Foundation Research and Conservation Director. He has established local conservation areas with many of the people living throughout the eagle’s enormous range. 350 are employed to simply stop the hunting while 450 households have had low income supplemented and their villages improved in terms of water supply, health services and education. In this way the 400 pairs of eagles that the Philippines hope to conserve are being protected by their human neighbours instead of being destroyed by revengeful farmers.
The end result of this project is improved lifestyle for humans and improvement in the holistic ecology of the island. Mindanao is a rich source of biodiversity and many endemic animals and plants. These, sadly, are being lost to creeping human development, as 40,000 hectares of forest are cleared annually.