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Singapore to welcome rare Philippine eagles

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The Philippines is sending two of the world's rarest raptors to Singapore next month in a move to protect the species from extinction.

The two Philippine eagles will be airlifted to Singapore on June 4, under a wildlife loan agreement, which the Department of Environment and Natural Resources signed with Wildlife Reserves Singapore yesterday.

The pair - a 15-year-old male named Geothermica and a 17-year female named Sambisig - will be housed at Jurong Bird Park.

Both were born in captivity at the Philippine Eagle Centre in Davao City.

Mr Dennis Salvador, executive director of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, said: "This serves as an insurance policy for our eagles. If something bad happens to their population here, we have a gene pool outside the country that we can rely on to continue propagating them in captivity."

With a wing span of 2m and a body length of 1m, the Philippine eagle is considered the largest eagle species. It is listed as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

A top predator that feeds on monkeys, lemurs, squirrels and bats, the Philippine eagle used to roam in fairly large numbers across the Philippines.

But decades of deforestation and urban sprawl have nearly decimated its territories and its population has rapidly declined. Only about 800 are left in the wild today. Thirty-two are in breeding centres.

Philippine eagles pair for life and lay just a single egg every two years.

This is the first time the Philippines is lending this national treasure to another country. It comes as the Philippines and Singapore mark 50 years of diplomatic ties.

Said Singapore's Ambassador to the Philippines Gerard Ho: "The two eagles are the living and breathing manifestation of our close bilateral relations.

"The Philippine eagle is known to stick to one partner for life. We're confident… the Philippines and Singapore will stick to each other for life."

The eagles will be housed in separate enclosures during their first weeks in Singapore. But hopes are high that they will mate and produce offspring.