On January 15, 1992, hope filled the walls of the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City. Inside the Center’s incubation and breeding room, fourteen years of research finally paid off—and for the first time in history, a Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) was successfully conceived via artifical insemination and hatched in captivity. Aptly enough, the little eaglet was named Pag-asa: a moniker that encapsulated what his existence meant not just to eagle conservationists, but also to his species as a whole.
Pag-asa was the first offspring of rescued eagles Diola and Junior. Pag-asa is dependent on humans, specifically his imprinted keeper Eddie Juntilla; thus, he is not expected to be able to thrive in the wild. Like Junior, Pag-asa became a sperm donor for the Center’s breeding program. Twenty-one years after his hatchday, on February 9, 2013, Pag-asa and his mate Kalinawan successfully produced a female chick named Mabuhay.
According to experts, Philippine eagles only lay one egg every two years, during the breeding season from July to February. The mother and father take turns incubating the egg at sixty-day intervals until it hatches. The parents will then take care of the chick until it grows big enough to be self-sufficient.
One of the world’s largest birds of prey, the Philippine eagle officially replaced the maya as the Philippines’ national bird via former president Fidel V. Ramos’ Proclamation No. 615 in 1995. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Philippine eagle is a critically endangered species. Deforestation and illegal hunting continue to be major threats to this majestic avian’s continued existence.
Once there are at least a thousand pairs of Philippine eagles in the wild or in captivity, the bird will be removed from the list of endangered species in the Philippines.
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