TACLOBAN CITY, (PNA) — The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and the Institute of Biology of the University of the Philippines – Diliman recently reconfirmed the existence of the great Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) at the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP).

A team from the PEF and the UP Institute of Biology reported sightings of the mighty bird at the forests of Calbiga, Samar and Taft, Eastern Samar during their expedition held September 19 to October 4, 2014.

The Philippine Eagle was sighted in thickly forested Barangay Buluan in Calbiga, where the juvenile Philippine Eagle “Calbiga” was captured by hunters in 2011.

The second sighting was within the Taft Forest Wildlife (Philippine Eagle) Sanctuary, both areas within the SINP.

Reports revealed that the Philippine Eagle was first spotted in Paranas,

Samar on June 15, 1896 by a British naturalist John Whitehead. It was followed by a sighting in 1997, which caused then President Joseph Estrada to declare the 3,720 hectares of Samar forest as Taft Forest Wildlife (Philippine Eagle) Sanctuary on July 31, 1999 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 155. The 2011 sighting of the Philippine eagle at the SINP was followed by another sighting in 2013 by Ruth Francisco an avid birder from the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.

Giovanne Tampos of the Philippine Eagle Foundation says that the retrieval of the wounded Philippine Eagle “Calbiga” in Calbiga Samar in July 2011 and the various reported sightings within the SINP prompted the team to conduct further research study and observation.

The team also intends to check on the status of the critically endangered Philippine Eagle considered to be at high risk of extinction as its numbers diminish in the wild due to habitat destruction and poaching.

Forester Angelito Villanueva, Protected Area Superintendent of SINP, said that the areas where the Philippine Eagle were sighted are declared government-protected to preserve the rare bird species from possible indiscriminate hunting, loss of habitat through cutting of trees and other related interventions.

With this recent sighting, DENR regional executive director Leonardo Sibbaluca urges anew the people of Samar to protect Eastern Visayas’ remaining forests because the existence of Philippine Eagle and other wildlife depends on its condition.

“Let us be proud with the presence of the Philippine Eagle in our locality because this indicates a rich and ecologically balanced forest favorable for the mighty bird to inhabit,” he adds.

The Philippine Eagle is a giant forest raptor endemic to the Philippines. The bird is known to be geographically restricted to the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao.

The critically endangered Philippine Eagle replaced the maya bird as the country’s national bird in 1995. (PNA)