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Sunday 21st December, 2014

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There's Good News From The Eagle Owls

I have written about our number one overseas project, the Philippine Owl Conservation Programme, and the trials and tribulations of trying to create a breeding programme for the ‘Red Data’*** Philippine Eagle Owl which would provide us with young birds to release into the wild to supplement its dwindling population. When I wrote in NL 47 (Winter 2011) that the real breakthrough of a third unrelated pair (Duwag and Dayon), also breeding successfully, had come about, I added the warning that the owlet was yet to fledge successfully – but it did, and the champagne cork was duly popped. Our only disappointment was the continued failure of a fourth pair comprising Maginoo and our 2005 female owlet Bubo, to produce fertile eggs. We did though now have 16 Eagle Owls at BCC and housing space was becoming a problem. This we saw as our chance to bring at least one pair over to the World Owl Centre here at Muncaster, which would comprise the first ever ‘Red Data’*** owl species to ever be seen in Britain.

We believe such an event would attract the national media and give us the opportunity to showcase the plight of wildlife species in the Philippines due to ongoing deforestation, mining and development. Our hope is that this might enable us to raise enough funding to enable us to create and support safe protected forest areas where our captive-bred birds could be released into the wild with a reasonable chance of survival. For this is the main September, so is hopefully now about a month problem we face. No such areas actually exist at the present time.

Having sounded out the chances of the Philippine government agreeing to let us have at least two birds here at Muncaster, our ‘Man in the Philippines’, the irreplaceable William Oliver, rightly pointed out to us that to import just two birds would be a pointless exercise for such a breeding programme and might also jeopardize the chances of us getting more birds at a later date.

Instead, he urged us to be patient until we had bred enough unrelated birds to create a viable ex-situ population. Very sensible advice. If we can achieve this he will then approach the relevant Governmental authorities to persuade them to let us set up a small founder stock in the UK as a ‘safety net’. To alleviate the housing problem at BCC and the possibility of disease affecting stock held at a single site, William has managed to arrange for another private breeding centre (overseen by Pavel Hospodarsky who formerly served as an Advisor at BCC) to house a couple of pairs of our birds for the time being. The aim now is to make up more new pairs at BCC using our new owlets and to try and get Maginoo and Bubo to breed successfully.

So what is the good news this time? I have just received an email from Joanne Mae Justo the BCC Curator who tells me the Eagle Owl breeding season is again under way at BCC and we already have two owlets.

One from Duwag and Dayon (their second which should be fledging any day now, and another from Mahinhin and Himay (their third) which hatched in the last week in September, so is hopefully now about a month old. The ‘old faithfuls’ Hinahon and Suplada have an egg which Suplada is incubating, and – fingers tightly crossed – Maginoo and Bubo have also produced an egg which Bubo is so far incubating well.

We had toyed with the idea of separating this pair in case Maginoo was too old to breed (we don’t know how old he is as he is an ex-wild confiscated bird), or else possibly infertile. However, being soft-hearted we decided to give him one last chance. So come on boy, it’s up to you, we can’t afford Viagra!

### Stop Press: Message from Joanne.
Suplada’s seventh owlet hatched on the 7th November, but sadly Maginoo has fired blanks again and Bubo’s egg was infertile – their fourth failure! We’ll now try and find a more lusty mate for her, but as things stand it will have to be a ‘toy boy’, so it will be a waiting game I’m afraid. As for Maginoo, we’ll find him a monastery!

To tell you more next time, is the exciting news that we now have five newly discovered Philippine endemic owl species to tell you about. So there you are, that lot should bring a smile to your face for Christmas! Have a good one.

Tony Warburton

*** A species in danger of extinction.

Extracted from Winter 2012 Newsletter

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