Photography by Joel Forte, Antipolo City, Philippines – Photographed at Davao City, Philippines
If the irrevocable transition of one species from rarity to extinction causes a rent in the fabric of our planet, exactly how big a hole would be left by the loss of the Philippine eagle?
No disrespect is meant to the basking malachite damselfly or the fine-lined pocketbook mussel, because all creatures—and plants too—help turn the infinitely complex cogs of the biosphere.
But the loss of this glorious bird would steal some of the world’s wonder. It glides through its sole habitat, the rain forests of the Philippines, powerful wings spread to seven feet, navigating the tangled canopy with unexpected precision.
It is possible that no one has ever described this rare raptor, one of the world’s largest, without using the word “magnificent.” If there are those who did, then heaven heal their souls.
In the kind of irony all too familiar to conservationists, however, the very evolutionary adaptations that made it magnificent have also made it one of the planet’s most endangered birds of prey.
There is no competition for prey from tigers, leopards, bears, or wolves in the Philippine archipelago, the eagle’s only home, so it became, by default, the king of the rain forest.
Expanding into an empty ecological niche, it grew to a length of three feet and a weight of up to 14 pounds.
A nesting pair requires 25 to 50 square miles of forest to find enough prey—mammals such as flying lemurs and monkeys; snakes; and other birds—to feed themselves and the single young they produce every other year.
“The birds had the islands all to themselves, and they grew big,” says Filipino biologist Hector Miranda, who has studied the eagles extensively.
“But it was a trade-off, because the forest that created them is almost gone. And when the forest disappears—well, they’re at an evolutionary dead end.”
Mount Mayon, also known as the Mayon Volcano, is an active stratovolcano on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, renowned for its almost symmetric conical shape.
Mayon is considered to have the world’s most perfectly formed cone due to its symmetry, which was formed through layers of pyroclastic and lava flows from past eruptions and erosion.
Photo: MARK ALVIC ESPLANA/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON
The volcano is located on the convergent boundary where the Philippine Sea Plate is driven under the Philippine Mobile Belt.
The lighter continental plate floats over top of the oceanic plate, forcing it down into the Earth’s mantle, and allowing magma to well up from the Earth’s interior. The magma exits through weaknesses in the continental crust, one of which is Mount Mayon.
In fact, Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines having erupted over 49 times in the past 400 years.
Despite this, the volcano has managed to retain its perfect cone shape without suffering any major slides or collapse.
If you’re lucky enough to have spent a few months bouncing among the 7000 islands that make up the vast oceanic territory we call the Philippines, you’ll have doubtless noticed something extraordinary about this civilization whose artifacts date back some 60 thousand years: there is virtually no ancient architecture.
But if you drop into the meandering ethnographic art museum here called the Quai Branly, you will find a stunning array of exquisite and intimate pre-colonial objects from the daily lives of the islands’ kings, queens and warriors.