I was fortunate to have joined a group of journalists and environmental advocates during the release of a rescued Pinker’s Hawk Eagle on October 14 at Lower Tibolo, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur. As an area belonging to the Mt. Apo Natural Park (MANP) and with still lush forest vegetation, Lower Tibolo is considered a fitting place to liberate the bird which was recovered by a certain Bernie Apal on September 7 while entangled in tree-roots within the area of HEDCOR Sibulan plant particularly in Tomari creek. According to Bernie, he caught the eagle unresponsive, scrawny and its left eye was injured.
Upon hearing the incident, HEDCOR authorities eagerly referred the bird to Davao City’s wildlife veterinarian Mr. Bo Puentespina of UP Mindanao who later nursed the eagle by providing appropriate medication and intensive tender and loving care. After 37 days of rehabilitation, Dr. Bo recommended that the eagle could already be liberated back to its natural habitat. In a short span of time, the 3-year old eagle instantly gained weight and have recovered quickly.
Christened Mabikker (a Bagobo term which means strength and power), the Pinker’s Hawk Eagle is considered endangered and threatened. It is also a biodiversity indicator considering that the wilderness is its home, just like any other bird species and wildlife in Mt. Apo. According to Dr. Bo, the Pinkers Hawk’s Eagle is endemic to Mindanao and with the upturn of Mabikker indicates that the forest of MANP is still an abode of assorted birds in the country.
Just like an ordinary person who left a home for more than a month, Mabikker was excited to stay back to his territory. I could see in his eyes the restlessness and enthusiasm, especially when Dr. Bo removed the cover in his eyes. When Bernie released him, he glided his way up and the 750-gram eagle appeared to be very small when he soared to the skies of MANP. After spending several seconds gliding, he perched to a tree-branch some 5 meters to where I was standing. We had our moment of looking at each other and I can read in his eyes how thankful he was not only to me but to all the people present during his release. Indeed, the wilderness is just right for Mabikker as a home.
Mabikker’s memory flashes back to me until now and somehow I always thought that the only way to make these creatures happy is to exert more efforts to restore their natural habitat, the forest. As a person who wishes to be as free as birds, I don’t like to see more and more birds struggling in search for a home. Time and time again I have always been conversing that if human and animals, or birds for that matter, reside in a single habitat together, there is a disaster. The forest is there home, not ours. They deserve to own it all throughout their existence. Our role should be to provide them that kind of home, comfortable and free from all human threats whatsoever.
Being a company operating in MANP, HEDCOR’s gesture to rescue Mabikker is laudable. As always, I have been very appreciative to private companies’ efforts to integrate biodiversity conservation as a component to their existence in their project areas especially in protected areas like Mt. Apo. HEDCOR’s attempts for environmental awareness campaign dates back when they started their hydropower project in Sta. Cruz and to date they are leveling up their IEC efforts through biodiversity orientation, birdshow experience, bird habitat restoration through reforestation and the newly-inked Wildlife Inventory and Biodiversity Assessment Project in close coordination with UP Mindanao.
It is therefore my fervent hope that as we glide towards the era of industrialization let us not forget that we have a shared responsibility of not ignoring the plight of our wildlife._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
P.S. Mabikker's release was graced by DENR Officer Ed Ragaza, HEDCOR President and Chief Operating Officer Rene Ronquillo, Tibolo Barangay Captain Henry Monon and Sibulan Barangay Captain Danilo Abe. This blogger would thank HEDCOR personnel Lloyd Revilla for the invitation.