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Philippine Eagles Carlito and Uswag Find New Home in Leyte

BURAUEN, Leyte – Carlito and Uswag, two severely endangered Philippine Eagles, were successfully rescued from Mindanao and brought to the jungle on Leyte Island. For these magnificent raptors, this is their first translocation project.

In what is now thought to be their new sanctuary, the upland town of Kagbana, the eagles were released on Friday. The eagles took flight above the Anonang-Lobi Mountain Range, a crucial 60,000-hectare Key Biodiversity Area, and were proudly seen by Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the local residents.

“We commend the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) for their outstanding reintroduction efforts.This success is a result of community collaboration, which is crucial to conservation.” Secretary Loyzaga stated.

The 60-year-old village chief of Kagbana, Rodolfo Ecija, expressed his happiness to see the Philippine Eagles again after a 12-year absence. “Before Super Typhoon Yolanda struck in 2013, I observed these eagles near our community three times. Ecija said to the Philippine News Agency, “We are happy that they have returned and it is our responsibility to protect them.

As forest guardians, Ecija and nineteen other locals make sure the eagles are secure and their natural environment is maintained.

The construction of an access road to Kagbana has created new study opportunities in environmental conservation. “We are proud to be the first release site for Philippine Eagles outside Mindanao. We look forward to seeing these birds thrive and reproduce in our forests,” Renomeron said.

A female raptor named Carlito was recovered in Trento, Agusan del Sur, and was rehabilitated in 2022. Meanwhile, a pioneering male raptor named Uswag was saved on Mt. Apo in Davao City in 2023. Carlito was named for schoolteacher Carl Balita, who decided against changing the name after learning the eagle’s gender. During the release ceremony, Balita stated, “What matters is that we protect and conserve this eagle, regardless of its gender.”

Kagbana, the most remote settlement in Leyte province, is 37 kilometers from the town center and has about 400 residents, 58 of them are Mamanwa Tribe members. Over ten years have passed as the PEF and its allies have worked to get the town ready for the eagles’ arrival.

PEF Director of Operations Jayson Ibañez declared that nine pairs, or eighteen eagles, will be released over the course of the next five years. “Any rescued eagles in Mindanao will be relocated to Leyte. We aim to repopulate the area with healthy young birds,” according to Ibañez.

Two Philippine Eagles were observed by the PEF in the forest of Kagbana in 2007, and sightings persisted until 2012. Sadly, it is thought that these birds died in 2013 during Super Typhoon Yolanda.

“We hope this initiative will open opportunities for scientific research and foster green jobs in Kagbana, shifting from hunting and wildlife collection to conservation efforts,” Ibañez continued.

With only 400 pairs remaining in the wild, the Philippine Eagle is one of the rarest and strongest forest raptors in the world. It is considered critically endangered.

The Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptors Conservation Fund, the Central Maharlika Eagles Club, the DENR, the Energy Development Corporation, the Australian Embassy in Manila, the Insular Life Foundation, Mandai Nature, the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, the Central Tacloban City Rotary Club, and the Forest Foundation Philippines all support the eagle translocation project.

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