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Giant Philippine eagle perched on edge of extinction
DAVAO, Philippines (CNN) -- In the Philippines, every creature surely fears the airborne predator at the top of the food chain, the Philippine eagle. But even the world's largest bird of prey faces the risk of extinction.
Like the American bald eagle, the Philippine eagle serves as a national symbol. Yet it is critically endangered because most of its forest habitat has been destroyed.
"The eagle is disappearing because of human activity, the logging and everything. And we feel it's also our responsibility to save it from extinction," said Hector Miranda of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.
At the Philippine Eagle Center, visitors learn why saving the eagle and the forest it needs to survive can also help rescue thousands of other threatened plants and animals.
Their mission is to inspire a conservation ethic among people whose natural heritage has already been mostly squandered: Forests chopped into small fragments. Fresh water sources exhausted or polluted. Marine fisheries depleted or poisoned by cyanide, causing economic hardship, deadly landslides and catastrophic floods.
Experts say the Philippines is on the verge of losing most of the plant and animal species unique to these islands, placing it on the top of the list of nations on the edge of environmental collapse.
"The next great mass extinction will happen in this country, if things don't turn around, within the next five to ten years," said Perry Ong of Conservation International.
There has already been so much lost in the Philippines that some conservationists believe the situation is hopeless. But others say there is one more chance to save the wide variety of plant and animal species that still survive.
Workers at the Philippine Eagle Center believe in that last chance.
"We're trying to get people to come here and see what the eagles look like and what all our other wildlife look like," said the foundation's Dennis Salvador.
He and his colleagues combine conservation education with other programs to encourage people in rural areas to protect their forests and wildlife, especially the Philippine eagle.
Fewer than 500 of the eagles remain in the wild.
"Whether they will survive or not in that small fragmented pieces of lowland forest we don't know yet," Miranda said.
At the Philippine Eagle Center, conservationists know they are working against the odds but remain optimistic. They have already succeeded in breeding captive eagles and hatching chicks that will someday be released into the wild.
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The Peregrine Fund - Conservation Projects - Philippine Eagle Conservation
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