Even as I was gushing about the magnificent beauty of the Philippine Eagle in my previous entry, yet another eagle was shot dead in the forests of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon province.
Kagsabua, a three-year old male, has not had an easy life. He was shot and captured n 2006, then rescued and brought over to the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) to be taken care of. He was released back to the wild just last March. Fitted with a satellite transmitter and a VHF radio, he has since then been transmitting information on Philippine Eagle habits back to the PEF, specifically on the animal’s movements.
Almost five months after the eagle’s release, the movements stopped. The transmitter and radio were found, as well as Kagsabua’s leg band and feet.
A 22-year-old tribal farmer, yielding to community pressure and undoubtedly fearing the wrath of the tribal elders, surrendered to authorities. He said he didn’t know that it was a Philippine Eagle, a ludicrous claim that’s nevertheless quite difficult to verify. Ludicrous, because it’s not like there are a lot of look-alikes out there. A biologist friend who witnessed Kagsabua’s release last March also told me that the event was practically a community fiesta and it was a really big deal. The community as a whole fully embraced the Philippine Eagle and understood the need for its protection, and it took just one person to undo all their efforts.
One hardly knows which is worse – sheer malice or sheer ignorance.
This is not just about conserving specific species for sentimental reasons, this is about preserving the integrity of our ecosystems and protecting their ability to deliver vital services that we take for granted, such as water flow, air quality, climate regulation, and of course forest products.
In the long term, Kagsabua’s death may serve as a way of further raising awareness and support for conservation work – at least, one can only hope. That’s also more or less what I said when I blogged about the death of Kabayan a year ago. Disheartening? Yes, definitely. Is it reason to give up hope? No, definitely not.
- As much as possible, do not keep wildlife as pets, especially the rare ones. Let’s foster a culture of appreciating wildlife in the wild instead of in cages. If you have to have a pet, make sure that you buy it from legitimate sources – that it’s bred in captivity and not captured from the wild. In most cases, threatened species sold in shops (Philippine Cockatoo, Hill Mynah, etc.) are definitely illegally captured from the forest.
- Do not eat so-called “exotic” food that use threatened wildlife.
- When traveling, avoid patronizing tour packages and sites that disturb the wildlife and their habitats. Offhand, an example is those Loboc river cruises that pass by facilities where they keep tarsiers captive and let visitors handle them. Do not feed the fish when snorkeling, and avoid stepping on the corals. Be careful in buying souvenirs. Other travel tips here.
- Be informed. Spread the word.
Images: Kagsabua: AFP, courtesty of PEF; Kagsabua’s tarsi and leg band: PEF, as posted in Mindanao Blog