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?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative / Forklift Driver

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Through a combination of excell...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are looking for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific