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Singapore shows off Philippine Eagles

November 30, 2019 - Saturday 6:11 PM by MindaNews , Agence France Presse

Article Banner Image NEW HOME. Geothermica, a male Philippine Eagle, is seen in an exclosure at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore on November 27, 2019. Singapore unveiled two Philippine Eagles at its main aviary, the first breeding pair of the critically endangered raptors to be brought outside their native country as part of a conservation plan. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP

Singapore, Singapore | AFP | -- Singapore showed off two critically-endangered eagles Wednesday that were loaned from the Philippines as part of a breeding programme to reverse the dwindling numbers of the feathered giants.

Destruction of tropical rainforest and relentless hunting have decimated the population of the Philippine Eagle -- one of the world's biggest and most powerful birds whose wingspan can reach 2 meters -- with only around 800 believed left in the wild, conservationists say.

The birds, named Geothermica and Sambisig, are the first breeding pair ever to be sent outside the Philippines and arrived in Singapore in June on a 10-year loan from Manila.

Philippine Eagle Sambisig at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP

The creatures are being cared for at the city-state's main aviary and were shown to the media Wednesday, as part of events marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between the countries.

"Any future offspring of the eagles will be returned to the Philippines to contribute to the sustainability of the species' population," said Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which runs the aviary.

The scheme has echoes of China's "panda diplomacy," which sees the Asian giant send the black and white bears to countries as gifts.

A breeding programme is also being carried out in the Philippines by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) in Davao City, close to the eagles' main forest habitat.

Vivian Balakrishnan (right), Singapore's foreign affairs minister, holds the two passport for the two Philippine Eagles as Assistant Secretary Ricardo Calderon of the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources looks on during the unveiling at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore on November 27, 2019. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP

The bird of prey, which has white and brown plumage and an enormous wingspan, is classified as "critically endangered" by protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
10-year loan
The eagles were loaned out to Singapore for 10 years after the Philippine government and Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) signed on May 20, 2019 a loan program agreement to protect the critically endangered species from extinction due to calamities and diseases.

PEF senior bird keeper Dominic Tadena said PEF had initially attempted last year to breed the raptors through a natural pairing process but it had to be aborted as discussions on the loan program between DENR and WRS began.

“We tried to stimulate them during breeding season last year but we had to terminate it because discussion on breeding loan program started and we expected the birds would be transferred (to Singapore) around same period,” he said.

He explained only raptors with no contact with humans may undergo the natural pairing process while those that had been imprinted on their keepers would have to undergo the cooperative artificial insemination breeding program.

Jurong Bird Park in Singapore, the eagles’ home for the next 10 years. Photo from PEF Facebook page

Tadena said under the artificial insemination breeding program, the keepers would attempt to establish a bond with the eagles to become their “human surrogate mate.”

He said to qualify for the loan program, the eagles should be captive-bred, not blood related to maintain a strong gene pool, not imprinted on their keepers, and have no history of illnesses.

It also requires that both eagles must be at their breeding age, from 10 to 25 years old. Sambisig, a female, is 17 years old, and Geothermica, a male, is 15 years old.

A Philippine Eagle at Philippine Eagle Foundation’s captive breeding facility in Malagos, Davao City. MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

Tadena said Sambisig is an offspring of naturally paired rescued eagles Sam and Diamante while Geothermica is the offspring of Junior and Kahayag through the cooperative artificial breeding program.
He said 28 of the 32 Philippines Eagles at the Philippine Eagle Center are bred in captivity. Eighteen are kept in the conservation breeding area.
Each female eagle can produce 26 to 30 eggs in her lifetime, Tadena said. Breeding season of the eagles lasts from July to February. Agence France-Presse and MindaNews