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Davao City, Philippines

A first in the world: Philippine Eagle flight demo takes off in Davao City

August 17, 2019 - Saturday 1:08 PM by Kenneth Paul Senarillos

Article Banner Image MIGHTY COVER. Philippine Eagle Sinag caps his handler Lohwana Halaq as he spreads his wings during the Raptors in Flight! bird show at the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) in Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City. KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS.

Davao City -- The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) takes wildlife appreciation to new heights as it launched its new and exciting initiative on August 17 which aims to educate its patrons about the plight of birds of prey in their facility.

Dubbed “Raptors in Flight!,” the event features the great Philippine Eagle and other birds of prey demonstrating their natural behavior around an audience.

“This is the first and only demonstration in the world to show a Philippine Eagle flying on cue,” PEF Executive Director Dennis Salvador said.

Visitors can watch as seven raptor species take turns in spreading their wings and showing off their flying and hunting skills.

Last August 10 and 15, PEF opened its gates to its partners and the media to present the new bird spectacle.

Raptors such as the Giant Scops Owl, Philippine Serpent Eagle, Pinskers Hawk Eagle, Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite, and the Philippine Eagle captivated the audience as they hovered over them, perched on tree branches, and hunted on fish and artificial prey.

BIRDS OF PREY. (From left to right) Pinskers Hawk Eagle, Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Philippine Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Giant Scops Owl, and Philippine Serpent Eagle—the stars of Raptors in Flight! KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS.

“It was an exciting activity because we see all these eagles taking flight, especially Sinag,” said Philippine Airlines (PAL) area head for Mindanao sales Victor Suarez.

Sinag, a-three-year-old captive-bred Philippine Eagle adopted by PAL, is the main act of the bird show.

“It is very nice for the public to see. When they fly, it is really something. You can see the strength,” Suarez added.


SINAG. Philippine Eagle Sinag spreads its wings after being released by his handler during the Raptors in Flight! bird show. KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS

Immersion

Wanting to stray from the usual bird show tricks, the idea to immerse the audience in the real behavior of the raptors came about in 2018.

PEF utilizes handed over and rehabilitated raptors from the center that are not suitable for release in the wild anymore.

“Since the birds are not in the cage, they come out daily for flight exercise. And then from there, we wanted to develop this educational flight demonstration to showcase their behaviors. It has a dual function, to exercise and it is also part of our flight demo,” said PEF animal keeper Lowhana Mae Halaq.

“The ones fit for release are not really on public display. We want them to retain that natural behavior. Just like Sinag now, his purpose instead of being for release is for him to be part of our breeding program here,” Halaq added.

This new move is part of PEF’s commitment to pursue a holistic approach in engaging the public on biodiversity conservation through wildlife exposure.

Beyond magazines and pamphlets 

According to PEF senior animal keeper Dominic Tadena, real life interaction can draw more attention to the public instead of just informing them about wildlife “through magazines or pamphlets.”

“If they can see the birds, how they really do, it’s more like they internalize everything that we are trying to tell them,” he said.


AWESTRUCK. Adults bring out their cameras while children watch in awe as birds of prey fly near them during the Raptors in Flight! bird show. KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS

The show’s format has proven to be an effective way of making the audience realize that their awareness could be transformed into action that would eventually help PEF on its biodiversity conservation initiatives.

“We really have to protect these kinds of species,” said second year San Pedro College of Davao student Jeizl Anne Abdullah after watching the show.

Sa mga taong walang idea (For people who do not have any idea), this is just a bird. But we don’t know that these birds play a particular role in our ecosystem,” she added.

Raptors in Flight! tickets cost P300 for adults and P250 for kids, inclusive of the entrance fee, tour of the Philippine Eagle Center, film viewing, and a chance to meet and greet the PEF mascot Malaya.

The bird show happens twice (one in the morning and another in the afternoon) every Saturday at the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City.

Guests can also have an exclusive booking on weekdays for a minimum reservation of 35 seats. For this arrangement, adults have to pay P285 and kids P240.

MALAYA. PEF mascot Malaya waves at the Raptors in Flight! audience. KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS

PHOTOBOMBER. Raptors in Flight! hosts Carla Salvacion and Boey Peña pose for the camera as Asul, a White-bellied Sea Eagle, glances from the background. KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS.

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