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?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant - ACCA, ACA or ACMA - Construction Sector

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant (ACCA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Recruitment Genius: Freelance AutoCAD Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot