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Working Together to Protect the Philippine Eagle

Australia Awards alumnus Jayson Ibanez is determined to spend the rest of his life rescuing the Philippine Eagle from being lost forever. With the help of indigenous communities, Jayson pursues an invaluable mission which has been recognised around the world.

As a young boy, Jayson Ibanez was captivated by the beauty of the Philippine Eagle in the photos of the National Geographic magazine. Fast forward to 1996, Jayson got his dream job at the Philippine Eagle Foundation, where he received the rare opportunity to see the Philippine national bird in the wild. His encounter with the bird and its habitat changed his life forever.

“I saw with my own eyes the many threats the species faces – from habitat loss, to shooting, hunting and trapping. The poor birds are unaware of these human threats and that our kind can even drive them to extinction. That’s when I decided to dedicate my life trying to make conditions better for eagles and the natural world they represent,” he said.

But searching and rescuing Philippine eagles is not a one-person job. Jayson knew that community support is vital in safeguarding the eagles and the forests they live in. As the Research and Conservation Director of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, Jayson works with various Indigenous Peoples (IP) communities across the Philippines to get the job done.

“My work brings me to the remotest places of Luzon, Leyte, Samar and Mindanao in search of Philippine eagles. I’ve been to Isnag and Agta ancestral lands in Luzon. I’ve also interacted with the Mamanwas of Leyte, and the Bagobo, Manobo, Mandaya and Bukidnon groups of Mindanao highlands,” he said.

To further his work with local IP communities, Jayson chose to pursue his postgraduate studies in Australia.

“Charles Darwin University was my first choice because of the university’s faculty expertise and various programs on Indigenous natural resource management. My training in Australia was foundational and life-changing. I learned the best practices of integrating Indigenous knowledge with scientific tools and technique in conservation.”

Upon his return, Jayson’s PhD dissertation became the Philippine Eagle Foundation’s standard for indigenous conservation engagements.

“My program strives to improve our way of doing things as we implement our framework to more Indigenous communities across the country,” he said.

The IP communities are the Philippine Eagle Foundation’s partner in their conservation work. Most of the indigenous people serve as forest guards who take care of the eagles and their habitat on the nation’s behalf. Jayson supports them by building their capacity for community-based conservation. The foundation also supports their families, providing them with part-time employment in research and conservation work and small biodiversity-friendly enterprises.

Jayson also pioneered research on eagle home range, survival and habitat use through radio, satellite and GPS/GSM telemetry in the Philippines. His conservation work has been recognised across the globe, receiving nods from prestigious award-giving bodies such as the Whitley Award and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Innovation Prize.

The Australian Embassy supported the Foundation’s culture-based approach to conservation that provides livelihood options for the Bawa community. The project is a true partnership among friends—with the city government providing stipends for forest guards and the community providing the venue for discussions and training. We will work further with the Foundation on conservation projects as part of the 75th Anniversary celebration.

Dr Jayson Ibanez completed his PhD with the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods at Charles Darwin University in Darwin under the prestigious Australia Awards Scholarships.

Since the 1950s, the Australian Government has provided study and research opportunities to Filipinos with the aim of empowering and equipping these individuals to drive change and contribute to Philippine development. Today, the Australian Government continues to provide educational opportunities to Filipino change-makers through the Australia Awards and Alumni Engagement Program.

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