Philippines mourns eagle that became a symbol

'DIOLA is dead,' announced a death-notice in the Mindanao Daily Mirror this week. While the rest of the Philippines focused on the dead in last week's unseasonal typhoon, people in Davao, the biggest city on the southern island of Mindanao, were in mourning for an eagle.

Diola, the 25-year-old female Philippines eagle that died last Saturday, was more than just a bird. As the first tropical eagle to be artificially inseminated and produce offspring in captivity, it had become a symbol of nature's survival in the Philippines. So dire is the ecological devastation in the country, which loses about 200,000 trees a year to loggers as well as countless coral reefs to dynamite fishing, that some politicians are trying to make the eagle the national symbol.

In the 1930s an estimated 10,000 Philippines monkey- eating eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi) were soaring over the forests here. A decade ago, because of deforestation, their numbers were down to fewer than 500. Now there are only 63 left - 16 in captivity and 47 spotted in the wild. The monkey-eating eagle is not found anywhere else.

'Illegal logging is still going on: if they can't keep the forests, the eagle will go too,' said Eddie Juntilla, head keeper at the Philippines Eagle Foundation's park outside Davao City. Not only wildlife suffers from deforestation, he points out: 'It is also a major cause of the mud-slides that kill dozens of people every monsoon season.'

The Philippines eagle is one of the world's biggest, with a 7ft wing-span and a weight of 5kg to 9kg. Wide- breasted, with brown wings, it eats monkeys, lemurs, bats and snakes. Its talons have a grip three times stronger than man's and it can break a monkey's neck or crush a snake's skull with ease. Because of their declining numbers, the Philippines Eagle Foundation had been trying for 14 years to breed eagles artificially. It finally succeeded in 1992, when Diola had two offspring: Pagasa (Hope) and Pakakaisa (Unity).

'Everyone is sad that Diola died,' said Mr Juntilla. But now we know how to breed the eagles in captivity, we think we have a chance of stopping them dying out.'

Whether or not the eagles bred in captivity can be returned to forests in the wild is, however, out of his hands. Unless the government puts an end to illegal logging, the Eagle Foundation estimates the Philippines will have no forests left to sustain eagles by the turn of the century.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks