The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued a memo circular adopting a protocol on the loan of Philippine eagle for conservation breeding, scientific research and educational purposes.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said Memorandum Circular 2018-04 entitled, “Adopting the Protocol on the Loan of Philippine Eagle,” was issued in light of “increasing interests” from local and foreign wildlife facilities and zoological institutions to acquire live specimens of the raptor through a wildlife loan agreement.

Attached to the circular is a five-page document that outlines the conduct and procedures to be followed in the loan of Philippine eagle, which can only be approved by the DENR Secretary.

According to Cimatu, the protocol serves as a national guide in applications for loan of Philippine eagle to be evaluated by the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), in coordination with concerned DENR regional offices and the Philippine Eagle Working Group (PEWG).

“This protocol serves as a guide in the evaluation and approval of applications for securing loan agreements on Philippine eagles to ensure that the undertaking will make significant contributions in providing a viable program for addressing the threats to the species and its habitats,” Cimatu said.

The document was prepared by the PEWG, composed of experts from the BMB, Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, Forest Management Bureau, University of the Philippines, PEF, and other conservation groups.

The protocol provides that only the DENR Secretary could grant the loan of the Philippine eagle. Only captive-bred eagles and eagles of wild origin unfit for release as identified by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) shall be considered for loan.

Cimatu said that loaning the Philippine eagle to foreign wildlife facilities and zoological institutions would help generate awareness on the conservation needs of the national bird, which could function as an ambassador for Philippine biodiversity conservation.

“It could also stimulate international support for the conservation program, including interventions to address socio-economic factors that threaten the species in particular, and biodiversity at large,” Cimatu added.

The Philippine eagle is listed as a “critically endangered” raptor in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and the country’s National List of Threatened Species under DENR Administrative Order 2004-15.

Wild populations of the species throughout the archipelago remain precarious with an estimated number of least 340 pairs. Hunting and loss of forest habitat remain the primary threats to its survival.

BMB Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez said the loan of several individuals of Philippine eagle in various locations is a “biosecurity measure” against risks posed by catastrophic events, such as disease outbreaks.

It is also a mechanism to ensure fall back population in case of extreme natural calamities, she added.

“Because of its small population, the Philippine eagle is vulnerable to impacts of environmental conditions such as natural calamities and outbreak of disease,” Rodriguez pointed out.

“Diseases, in particular avian influenza, are increasingly recognized as a significant risk factor that can affect both wild and captive populations of the Philippine eagle,” she added.

Under the protocol, eagles up for loan will be subjected to DNA test by the UP Institute of Biology to establish genetic markers.

Only recognized national or foreign scientific research or zoological institutions which signify their intentions to support conservation efforts for the Philippine eagle and with financial capability, expertise and proven track record qualify for grant of a loan agreement.

The receiving institution must be free of pathogenic avian influenza virus and must disclose occurrence of avian diseases in its facility at least within the last three years. It should not be located in a place contiguous to countries with confirmed incidents of avian flu outbreak.

The protocol also outlines the conditions provided in the wildlife loan agreement the DENR will enter with qualified local and foreign wildlife facilities and zoological institutions. #