Valentines day has come and gone. For some it was a day of romance and spending time with your loved one, for singletons like me however, it was just another ordinary day. Some may think its funny that it is difficult to find a match but when it comes to the critically endangered Philippine Eagle, finding the “right one” is truly extra challenging.
I learned this during my visit to the center on the 5th hatch day of Mabuhay, the only offspring of Philippine Eagle Pag-asa, last February 9. Although many eagles in the center pair naturally with their kind, some eagles cannot be paired to a wild bird. Therefore to ensure that these eagles will be able to multiply, the center pair them with a human mate.
One keeper whom I was able to meet and talk to on that day was Bong Tadena who was giving a talk to the students of the Newfields STEM School of Davao, Malagos Elementary School, Ateneo de davao University-Grade School, Lighthouse Homeschool Network, Eden Project Hope Day Care who also attended the event.
A second-generation eagle keeper and to whom Mabuhay hand bonded with, his love for the eagles started at an early age as he was influenced by his Father, Mr. Domingo Tadena, the former Director for Conservation Breeding of the Philippine Eagle Foundation. Bong is also the human mate of Mabuhay and serendipitously, it was his father Domingo who was paired to Diola, Pag-asa’s Mother.
I asked Bong how a day is like being a human partner to Mahubay. “I start my day early in the morning at six to check on the birds under my charge, not just Mabuhay. To see how they are and if they are healthy. After the rounds, I bring food to the birds. For Mabuhay, I enter the cage with food for her and usually stay around her for ten to fifteen minutes to assure her of my presence and bond” Bong shared. “After feeding and spending time with Mabuhay, I leave and spend time with another imprinted Philippine Eagle Imbodo.”
Bong revealed that on ordinary days, he would return to Mabuhay’s enclosure two to three more times. Each visit lasting around ten to fifteen minutes.
He says his visits become more frequent during the eagle’s breeding season from around July to August. “That is when I would bring nesting material to the enclosure to stimulate the birds into copulation, although for Mabuhay, she is just nearing sexual maturity so we are still waiting for her to show signs that she is ready.”
Love comes in many forms and though humans and eagles may be different species, the love we share with these lords of the skies is something that should be passed down through the generations and should not be lost.
“To ensure the future of our national bird, I believe that it is essential that we teach young minds to love and respect nature and wildlife. I hope to see these future leaders of society to someday become stewards and champions of our forests and of the Philippine Eagles as we continue to tirelessly work for the mission today.”, said Dennis Salvador, Executive Director of the PEF.