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One of world’s rarest eagles to land at Jurong Bird Park this year

SINGAPORE — One of the largest eagle species in the world will be landing in Singapore this year in a move to protect it from extinction.

One of world’s rarest eagles to land at Jurong Bird Park this year

A pair of critically endangered Philippine Eagles will arrive at the Jurong Bird Park on a conservation breeding loan from the Philippines.

SINGAPORE — One of the largest eagle species in the world will be landing in Singapore this year in a move to protect it from extinction.

A pair of critically endangered Philippine Eagles will arrive on a conservation breeding loan from the Philippines.

They will be cared for at the Jurong Bird Park, which has been preparing for months for their arrival, said Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, deputy chief executive and chief life sciences officer of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

The WRS did not say when exactly they would arrive.

The news was announced last Wednesday (April 24) by Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources during its Earth Day celebration.

Singapore has experts who can look after the eagles, the department’s secretary Roy Cimatu told the Philippine News Agency.

The loan of the eagles — a top predator — will help to conserve the species.

According to best available estimates, 400 pairs of the Philippine Eagle remain, Mr Dennis Salvador, executive director of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, told TODAY.

They are found only on the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao in the Philippines.

WHY LOAN THE EAGLES?

The loan is to ensure that there will be Philippines Eagles left for breeding, should any disease outbreak wipe out the population in its native country.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, its population has rapidly declined in the past 60 years due to deforestation.

The bird is also threatened by humans shooting and accidentally trapping them, said Mr Salvador.

He added that there are currently no Philippine Eagles on loan overseas.

“The loan of a pair of Philippine Eagles to Singapore represents a major step in our risk reduction plan for the species. This will help ensure that we will continue to have a viable gene pool should catastrophic events, like avian flu, impact captive populations in the Philippines,” he said via email.

He hopes the measure will raise awareness of the species globally and mobilise support for its conservation in the Philippines.

The foundation, a non-governmental organisation, runs the Philippine Eagle Centre in Davao City on Mindanao island. It also does field research, education and captive breeding, and works with indigenous people to protect and restore the eagles’ forest habitat.

Mr Salvador said it would like to see more eagles loaned to other countries. “As much as possible we want more than one repository of the species’ genetic pool outside the country,” he said.

Last year, the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources adopted a protocol for loaning the eagles for conservation breeding, scientific research and educational purposes.

Only the department’s secretary can grant a loan, and only captive-bred eagles and those of wild origin that are unfit for release — as identified by the foundation — can be considered for loan, reported the Daily Tribune, a Filipino news outlet, last September.

Mr Cimatu said that there was increasing interest from local and foreign wildlife facilities and zoos, reported the Daily Tribune.

The Philippine Eagle has a wingspan of about 2.1m. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

2.1-METRE WINGSPAN, PICKY WITH THEIR MATES

According to the Philippine Eagle Foundation, the giant bird of prey has a wingspan of about 2.1m and is able to see eight times more clearly than humans.

Its prey includes the flying lemur, snakes, bats and even monkeys.

The eagles — the national bird of the Philippines and whose scientific name is Pithecophaga jefferyi — take five to seven years to mature sexually. They can live for more than 40 years in captivity, but probably less in the wild, said the foundation.

Mr Salvador said the Philippine Eagle is difficult to breed for many reasons. “They are very territorial, very picky with their mates but also very loyal and stay paired for life,” he said.

A pair of eagles lays only a single egg every two years. They wait for their offspring to make it on their own (which usually takes about two years) before producing another offspring.

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Jurong Bird Park conservation eagles

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