Voluntourism Philippines.

Philippine Eagle Foundation: Guardians of the Rare Monkey-Eating Eagle and Other Birds of Prey

The Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), known globally as a powerful and majestic bird of prey, is on the brink of extinction because of habitat loss and illegal hunting. 

The dwindling number of these birds remains a major environmental concern today. But thankfully, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), a Davao-based organization, stepped up to the plate to save the endangered species through conservation measures.

Established in the 1970s, the PEF aims to conserve the species of monkey-eating eagles and other birds of prey (raptors) in the country. To strengthen their resolve, they built the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC), an 8.4-hectare space located at the foothills of Mount Apo in Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City dedicated to raising awareness about and breeding Philippine eagles.
 

Rai Gomez, the Education Administrator of PEF, says that the facility has become a tourist spot in Davao, and has even received support from then-mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Breeding Program


The only breeding facility in the Philippines, PEC uses artificial insemination and the natural pairing process.

In artificial insemination, the monogamous Philippine eagle is imprinted to its caretaker.  Meanwhile, for the natural pairing process, two compatible eagles are matched by the PEF staff.

Last February 2016, the natural mating of two eagles produced the 27th chick born in captivity.

Out of the 35 eagles in the facility, 9 are captive bred and 16 are rehabilitated or rescued birds.


Gomez shares that only seven Philippine eagles are for viewing, while the rest are kept from the public for “conservation breeding and research purposes”.

Programs

Gomez shares that PEF offers a wide array of programs in addition to their breeding project.

In Research and Conservation, the PEF researchers workers check the condition of forests and monitor the Philippine eagles in the wild. Gomez adds that these researchers are in charge of working with the local community to educate them how to protect the eagles and other bird species in the area.


Disseminating information is still the best way to protect the environment. In PEF’s Conservation Education Program, they educate their guests about the Philippine eagle. The learning session is complemented with a bird watching activity and “Nature Discovery” where they visit the rainforests to learn more about biodiversity.
A PEF volunteer educates a couple of elementary students about the Philippine Eagle.
Gomez adds that they also strengthen their relationship with the upland communities. They work with the indigenous tribes so that they can continue and preserve the work that was started by PEF.

“It is very important to get strong support from the partner communities. Presently, we also work with former hunters who are now the number one protectors of the Philippine eagle in the area,” she shares.

Their Development Program concentrates on planning fundraising events, handling social media activities, and getting in touch with media.

Volunteer Programs

Gomez says that they are working with organizations but also welcome individual volunteers, who are mostly undergraduate biology and science students.

The local and foreign volunteers get in touch with PEF through email. Scores of foreign participants, mostly sent by their partner organization, AIESEC, choose PEF because of the rare species housed in the center.

AIESEC volunteers prepare PEF materials that will be used in the organization's education programs.
During their stint at the PEC, volunteers experience close encounters with the Philippine eagle and various species in the facility. Under the guidance of the PEF staff, the volunteers can also observe and study the plants, trees, and flowers that thrive in the Davao forests.

When asked about the feedback from their volunteers, Gomez shares that the participants are happy and go home with a wealth of experience.

“They start working in different fields. Their immersion here is like a training ground for them,” she says.

Gomez explains that they do not limit the stay of the volunteers. Some visit for a week or stay for a month or two.

No fee is required to become a PEF volunteer. However, all participants must be able to pay all the food and lodging expenses during their stay. To help the volunteers, Gomez says that the PEF staff handles the coordination for all their needs.

Kid Volunteers

Right now, the PEF team is bent on instilling knowledge to volunteers as young as eight years old. The new program, which started in 2016, has about ten active students.

Gomez shares that not even the distance and lack of transportation can quench the enthusiasm of the students.

PEF's young volunteers clean the river in a bid to help protect the environment.
“If you want to develop future stewards, you have to start with the kids. We encourage them to come to the center so they can create memories with wildlife,” Gomez enthuses.

She adds: “We focus on them to develop their love for the environment.”
 

PEF as an Educational Facility

PEF is currently designing a module for volunteers who want to go full-time in the conservation process.


“It is a challenge for us to see growth in our volunteers. We want to develop more trainings for them,” Gomez shares.

A PEF volunteer plays with the children from an upland town near the Philippine Eagle Center.
However, Gomez says that they grapple with the irregular influx of volunteers. One option is to encourage schools to send their students to the facility to learn more about the environment.

“We want them to see the center as an educational facility for the students,” Gomez explains. 

Wing Slap Movement

PEF recently launched “Wing Slap Movement”, a campaign launched in honor of the Philippine Eagle Week.

According to Gomez, the wing slap is an eagle’s way to protect themselves in times of danger.

“It is also our way of saying that the destruction of the environment and the killing of our national bird has to stop. When you do the wing slap movement, it is sending a message to stop the destructive activities,” Gomez explains.

Three-time UAAP MVP Alyssa Valdez and the rest of Bali Pure, a volleyball team, supported the campaign.

Visit PEF’s website (
http://www.philippineeagle.org/) or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/phileaglefdn) to learn more about the organization and their donation process and volunteering opportunities.





 
Anna Pangalangan Anna Pangalangan Author

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