MINDANAO, Philippines — Efforts to conserve the critically endangered Philippine eagle, one of the rarest raptors in the world, soared high even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the global havoc wreaked by the health crisis, the year 2020 ended on a high note for eagle conservationists, with at least two eagle families sighted in the Davao region of the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The Philippine eagle (Pithecopaga jefferyi) enjoys a special status as the national bird of the Southeast Asian nation, but faces extinction due to hunting and loss of habitat. Growing the population is difficult, as the birds are slow to reproduce. It takes them five to seven years to mature sexually, after which the female lays a single egg every two years. There are only an estimated 400 nesting pairs of Philippine eagles left in the wild, so the sighting of new eagle families is always a milestone to celebrate for the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), a nonprofit that has worked for more than 30 years in conserving the species. Dennis Joseph Salvador, executive director of the PEF, said he’s optimistic the protection of the Philippine eagle is off to a good start for 2021, given the achievements of 2020, which came despite the debilitating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the threats the birds face daily from human activities such as hunting and illegal logging. “We have demonstrated over the past 30 years our commitment to conserve the mighty Philippine eagle and by hook or by…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer