MANILA, December 31, 2002 (STAR)  By Katherine Adraneda  - Philippine eagle Amianan’s body has been stuffed and will be put on display as a "testament to man’s greed."

Taxidermists at the Raptor Center in Los Baños, Laguna have finished their work of preserving the body of Amianan, the 2.5-foot-tall Philippine eagle that was rescued in Isabela. It died from a fungal infection 17 days after surviving a 20-minute operation that removed a caliber .22 slug embedded in its chest.

Amianan’s internal organs were kept in a freezer and tissue samples were preserved for study by pathologists to determine the extent of the infection that claimed its life. Scientists are hoping to find a cure for the fungal infection.

Since the preservation was finished some two weeks ago, Amianan has yet to be brought to the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) in Quezon City. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has not decided where to display the preserved body of the monkey-eating eagle.

PAWB assistant director Dr. Mundita Lim said Amianan died primarily of aspergillosis on the morning of Nov. 23.

Aspergillosis is the most common fungal infection in birds, according to a study. It is caused by the fungus Aspergella fimugates, usually affecting birds of prey and is difficult to diagnose other than by autopsy.

Veterinary doctor Hannis Stoddard, author of the study, said that though birds are commonly exposed to the spores of the fungus, they develop the disease only under certain conditions that suppress their immune system – an illness, gunshot wounds, environmental changes, or capture.

An autopsy on Amianan’s remains showed that the fungal infection was aggravated by the bullet wound that it had sustained long before it was found and rescued last October.

Amianan, Lim said, was also seen to have signs that it suffered from tuberculosis or multiple respiratory infection for some time. Further blood tests conducted at the St. Luke’s Medical Center found it also had a high white blood cell count and was positive for 0.1 micrograms of lead, which is toxic at 0.2 micrograms.

Lim also said that doctors found hard nodules or lumps in the raptor’s air sacs. The lumps had spread to its heart.

Doctors explained that the hardness of the nodules indicates that the eagle may have been suffering from the fungal infection for a long time before it was accidentally captured.

"We thought Amianan was in relatively good condition after we were able to successfully treat Amianan’s bullet wound and gastroenteritis. But despite the vitamin-rich diet we were feeding Amianan and the anti-fungal medication, the bird did not gain weight at all, owing to the disease, which was already in its advanced stage. Infection was worse that we have ever imagined," Lim noted.

It was former DENR Secretary Heherson Alvarez who ordered that Amianan’s internal organs be preserved and kept at PAWB for future studies.

Initially, the plan was to mount only Amianan’s feathers for display – both for education purposes and to remind the public of the importance of protecting national treasures such as the Philippine eagle and the conservation of the environment in general.

It was also Alvarez who named the eagle Amianan, which literally means "north" in Ilocano.

Amianan was found severely wounded in Isabela last Oct. 25. It was caught in a pig trap by a certain Mr. Wangit in Mt. Susong Dalaga in San Mariano town and was being offered for sale, according to reports reaching the DENR central office.

The eagle was believed to have been shot prior to landing in a pig trap.

Through the assistance of the Philippine Wood Producers Association based in Isabela, Amianan was turned over to the DENR Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in Palanan town. It was then brought to the DENR-PAWB Rescue Center.

Six doctors conducted the surgery to remove the bullet at Birds International, Inc., a private bird farm owned by Antonio de Dios, who is a known bird aficionado. The farm has a world-class avian hospital specializing in parrot breeding.

Despite efforts to help Amianan recover, it died two weeks later.

The Philippine eagle, otherwise known as the monkey-eating eagle, is considered a rare species. It is capable of holding a full-grown goat, monkey or dog and was declared the Philippines’ national bird through Proclamation 615 by then President Ramos.

The Philippine eagle – with the scientific name Pithecophaga jefferyi – is the largest raptor or bird of prey in the country and the second largest in the world, next to Central America’s harpy eagle. It is known to exist only on four Philippine islands: Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao.

The DENR said the denudation of the Philippine forest, which is now less than 20 percent of the 14 million hectares 40 years ago, has resulted in the near-extinction of the Philippine eagle.

A pair of mating eagles needs about 40 to 50 square kilometers or more of forest where it can feed on snakes, monkeys, wild pigs, flying lemurs, squirrels, snakes, bats, and other wild animals.

The DENR said that there are less than 200 eagles in the wild today, while about 50 eagles are being held in captivity in different breeding facilities in the country.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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