Near-extinct Philippine eagle shot dead

Posted at 10/07/11 6:05 PM

MANILA, Philippines - An endangered Philippine eagle, one of only a few hundred left in the world, has been shot dead, a conservation group that had previously rescued the bird said Friday.

The 2-year-old female raptor was found last month with a bullet embedded in its carcass in a forest in the southern island of Mindanao, according to Dennis Salvador, head of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF).

Villagers who found the carcass -- which had been tagged with a radio transmitter by the foundation -- turned it over to Salvador's group this week, he told AFP.

In a press statement, the PEF said the eagle’s transmitter, leg band and some feathers and bones were first discovered by a forest guard on the banks of the Binagyuhan Creek in Sitio Mangilit, Barangay Bal-ason, Gingoog.

Officials of the PEF and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources investigated the site and found more bones and feathers, the frame of the head, sternum and tail feathers, the leg and tarsus.

However, the eagle’s radio transmitter that was fitted prior to its release remains missing.

PEF said Hagpa’s satellite transmitter that was recovered had a “bullet-sized hole”, leading authorities to suspect that the eagle was shot.

The bird of prey, also popularly known as "monkey-eating eagle", is a one-meter (3.3-foot) raptor found only in the Philippines and whose numbers have declined due to hunting and deforestation.

"Even with all our hard work, if there is just one guy with a gun who decides to shoot the bird, he can undo everything," Salvador said.

He warned that the species, one of the world's largest and most powerful eagles, could become extinct within 20 years unless stronger measures are taken to protect the eagle and its habitat.

A farmer had captured the eagle in May 2010 when it tried to prey on his puppy.

He handed the bruised bird over to the foundation, which nursed it back to health and released it back into the wild tagged with the transmitter, Salvador said.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the animal as "critically endangered" and estimates that there may be only 670 birds left.

The PEF has released 6 eagles -- either bred in captivity or rehabilitated after injuries -- but 4 of them have since died, at least 3 of after being shot.

The eagle is the country's national bird and harming or capturing it is against the law, but people still hunt the creature for food or sport, Salvador said. - with a report from Agence France-Presse