Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA AVES FALCONIFORMES ACCIPITRIDAE
Scientific Name: Pithecophaga jefferyi
Great Philippine Eagle, Monkey-eating Eagle, Philippine Eagle
Aguila Comemonos, Aguila Monera
Assessment Information [top]
Red List Category & Criteria:
Critically Endangered A2cd;C2a(ii) ver 3.1
Symes, A., Butchart, S., Bird, J.
This long-lived species qualifies as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small population, as a result of extremely rapid declines in the past three generations (56 years) owing to extensive deforestation. Recruitment to the adult population currently appears to be very low indicating that declines may continue into the future. Confirmation of trends is required and may lead to a change in status in the future.
Geographic Range [top]
Pithecophaga jefferyi is endemic to the Philippines, where it is known from eastern Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. Mindanao supports the bulk of the population, with recent research estimating 82-233 breeding pairs1. Estimates from other islands are of six pairs on Samar and perhaps two on Leyte, and Luzon may have very few left; but these should be considered precautionary figures7. An earlier estimate using 1992 forest-cover data suggested 226 mature individuals, with a total population, including immatures, of c.350-670 birds. Extrapolations across all islands based on the density of nests located on Mindanao suggest a total of 340 pairs, however it is unknown whether the species reaches similar densities on the other islands, particularly Luzon, and this figure should perhaps be treated with caution9. Poor recruitment to the breeding population was previously thought to be a key factor in this species's decline4, but recent research suggests that the dispersal and survival of juveniles and subadults is of greater concern9. The first release of a captive-reared bird took place in 2004 when a male was released into the forest of Mount Apo, Mindanao3. Unfortunately this bird was electrocuted nine months after release, and another rehabilitated bird released on Mindanao in 2008 was killed by a hunter four months after release, but further experimental releases are planned8,10, preceeding a full scale reintroduction programme to supplement wild populations6.
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Bueser et al. (2003) estimated the population on Mindanao to number 82-233 pairs. Numbers elsewhere are tiny: perhaps six pairs on Samar, two on Leyte and probabaly very few on Luzon, giving a total population size of perhaps 90-250 pairs, or 180-500 mature individuals.
Habitat and Ecology [top]
Habitat and Ecology:
It inhabits primary dipterocarp forest, particularly in steep terrain, sometimes frequenting secondary growth and gallery forest (but not occupying open canopy forest), from lowlands to at least 1,800 m. Estimates based on the distribution of nests in Mindanao suggest that each pair covers an average of 133 km2, including an average of 68 km2 of forest9. On Mindanao eagles begin nesting from September to December in primary and disturbed forest, with some differences in the timing of breeding between Mindanao and Luzon2. A complete breeding cycle lasts two years with successful pairs raising one offspring2. Birds form a monogamous bond for life with sexual maturity for females at around five years and for males at around seven years8. The young fledge after c 4-5 months, but stay in the nest vicinity for almost a year and a half8. Captive birds have reached more than 40 years of age8.
Forest destruction and fragmentation, through commercial timber extraction and shifting cultivation, is the principal long-term threat. Old-growth forest continues to be lost rapidly, such that as little as 9,220km2 may remain within the eagle's range. Moreover, most remaining lowland forest is leased to logging concessions. Mining applications pose an additional threat. Uncontrolled hunting (for food and, at least formerly, zoo exhibits and trade) is perhaps the most significant threat in the short term9. Naive juvenile birds are easily shot or trapped, as are adults nesting near forest edges8. Birds are also vulnerable to accidental capture in traps intended for wild pigs and deer, and there are several records of individuals caught in snares presumably whilst hunting on the forest floor8. Pesticide accumulation is another potential but unproven threat which may reduce its already slow reproductive output.
Conservation Actions [top]
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. Since 1970, various initiatives have been launched, including the passing of legislation prohibiting persecution and protecting nests, survey work, public awareness campaigns, captive breeding and a socio-economic project to alleviate pressure on an eagle territory whilst increasing local economic prosperity. It occurs in several protected areas including the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park on Luzon, and Mt Kitanglad and Mt Apo Natural Parks on Mindanao. A Philippine Eagle Foundation exists which runs the Philippine Eagle Centre in Davao City, Mindanao and oversees captive-breeding efforts and monitoring and conservation of wild populations5; in 2008 there were 32 eagles at the centre, 18 of which were captive bred, and the Foundation are working towards the development of a full reintroduction programme10.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further research into distribution, numbers, ecological needs and threats. Extend the protected-areas system to embrace known eagle nests and habitat. Implement habitat management schemes for the benefit of wildlife and local people. Integrate eagle-friendly practices into forestry policy. Launch a campaign to engender national pride and respect for the eagle. Investigate genetic differences between birds on Luzon and those on Mindanao, Samar and Leyte and take findings into account when planning releases of captive-bred and rehabilitated birds9.