DENR strengthens wildlife enforcement efforts in C. Luzon

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here has strengthened its wildlife enforcement efforts by enhancing the skills and knowledge of at least 100 DENR field personnel and partner enforcement officers from other national government agencies, private institutions and the academe on the enforcement of wildlife law.

Arthur Salazar, deputy director for Technical Services, stressed that wildlife law enforcement plays a crucial role in ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife resources since illegal wildlife trade remains to be one of the primary threats to the region’s abundant biodiversity.

“In Central Luzon, we have strengthened our effort to stop illegal wildlife trade by upholding our policy improvements and forging partnerships with other government agencies and organizations," he explained

He said, last March, the DENR has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) to operationalize a Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit (WTMU) that will effectively monitor and address the cases involving the transport or trading of wildlife resources.

“Our WTMU is a fundamental element to combat illegal wildlife trade in the region. Apart from sustaining our ecological balance, it is likewise important to our national security, since more often than not, wild-caught animals in trade are also known vectors of diseases which pose risk to human health,” he added.

Amid the region’s rich natural resources and strategic location, Central Luzon has emerged as among the “hot spots” for wildlife trafficking in the Philippines.

In fact, by year 2016, seven vulnerable wildlife—including four pangolins and three spitting cobras—both under the “Red List” of animals threatened with extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), were turned over to the DENR after a successful operation with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Clark International Airport against a suspected Chinese wildlife smuggler.

“Since 2016, a total of 69 wildlife was surrendered to the DENR, primarily composed of Philippine eagle, reticulated python, grass owl, soft shell turtle, and among others,” Enforcement Division Chief Fred Sadueste reported.

The three-day learning activity held recently centered on the enforcement of Republic Act 9147, otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001. This provided participants the standard operating procedures on monitoring, surveillance, confiscation of wildlife specimen, evidence-gathering, case-building, and apprehension of law violators.

The participants were also taught of the salient points of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law, fisheries enforcement protocol, procedures on wildlife permitting, wildlife handling and safety management, and the legal bases used for environmental cases.

The newly trained participants from the other government agencies will now be deputized by the DENR as wildlife enforcement officers (WEO) that will help in enforcing the various laws, rules, and regulations involved in the protection and conservation of wildlife species.

“Having WEO from our partner agencies will help DENR to score more convictions against wildlife criminals and attain our ultimate goal of abating illegal collection and trade of wildlife resources,” Salazar ended.

News

June 4 to 10 of every year is Philippine Eagle Week

AGAWID: THE UNTOLD STORY

Sighting for the birds of prey

For decade wildlife experts and biologists of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Luzon have been monitoring the vast and diverse mountain ranges of Sierra Madre in the portion of Nueva Ecija and Aurora to confirm the presence of Philippine Eagle. Wildlife officers have been tracking down this birds of prey and were unfortunate to confirm its existence in the area.

In 2000, local communities have observed this raptor flying in the clear sky, probably hunting for its food. But they are unsure of its true identity. However, this sighting further gave hope to conservationists to continue its quest in probing the existence of Philippine eagle in the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre.

According to literature, Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is the world's largest eagle. Sadly, it is also one of the endangered species in the country. Standing at three feet tall and with a wingspan of seven feet, it is no doubt that the Philippine eagle is truly king among the great birds of prey.

The Philippine eagle can live to between 30 and 60 years of age. It feeds mainly on flying lemurs, palm civets and monkeys, hence the alternative common name of 'monkey-eating eagle'. Other prey items include rats, snakes, flying squirrels, birds and bats.

This species is endemic to the Philippines and found on parts of the larger islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao

A rescued raptor

Hope never fails. Sometime on June 2016, an upland farmer found a juvenile eagle trapped in a snare or “silo” that was used in catching monkey inside the Aurora Memorial National Park (AMNP). The wildlife sustained no serious injuries in the ordeal.

The raptor was immediately turned-over to the DENR-Community Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) based in Dingalan and was transferred to the custody of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) where it was cared for until its release into the wild. It was estimated that the eagle is just three years old.

The bird’s existence finally confirmed the presence of this critically endangered species in the Sierra Madre mountain range, a truly pride of Central Luzon.

Life in captivity

Agawid was placed in custody at the DENR Wildlife Rescue Center in Quezon City where the young eagle undergoes treatment and care. Agawid was placed in an eagle dome cage to prevent any human interaction. It was 17 months in captivity.

On May 2017, Agawid was transferred to a hack cage and brought back to a forest area in the national park of Aurora. The eagle undergoes a six month hacking process to ensure his survival and adaptive capacity in the wild.

Return to the wild

After more than a year of captivity, the young female Philippine eagle was released into the wild on October 4, 2017 in the forests area of AMNP. The released was historic and symbolic as it coincides with the confirmation of Secretary Roy. A Cimatu.

The spectacular eagle weighs approximately 5.31 kilograms just before its release. The eagle was named “Agawid,” an Ilocano word meaning “go home”. The eagle was able to return successfully to its natural habitat. It has been fitted with harnessed with radio transmitter to help DENR authorities monitor the eagle’s activities.

On April 2018, DENR Aurora and BMB conducted a re-trapping and monitoring of the young Agawid to check its health condition.

Today, Agawid is learning to hunt and survive in the wild. There are times that the young eagle return back to the community to hunt pets and other domesticated animal as an easy prey.

Portion of AMNP along the highway in Barangay Villa Maria in Maria Aurora town has been a favorite spot for many tourists as they enjoy a closer look of Agawid alights in the tree tops of tall dipterocarp trees in search for prey.

Agawid is being closely monitored to protect against illegal hunters and poachers. The eagle is a true symbol of the Filipino and crown jewel of Philippine biodiversity.

Let us protect Agawid and its habitat.

It is our country’s national bird, a beacon of hope and barometer of our ecosystem.

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