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Endemic to the forests that give it its name, the Philippine eagle is the largest known eagle species by length and wing-surface area. After a century of human-fuelled habitat destruction, it also happens to be the world’s rarest, with only 400 nesting pairs now thought to be living in the wild. But this population is up from just 50 nesting pairs in the early 1980s, so that there are any Philippine eagles at all outside captivity is a credit to a small group of conservationists, scientists and researchers dedicated to protecting this ‘masterpiece of nature’.
One such conservationist is the celebrated US wildlife cinematographer Neil Rettig. Aged 27, Rettig trekked deep into the forest of the Philippines to capture the first-ever footage of the eagle in its nest as part of a 1980s public relations effort to save the bird from extinction. Rettig is now 64, and the feature-length documentary Bird of Prey (2018) follows as he and a small filmmaking team seek, once again, to photograph a Philippine eagle’s nest and, in doing so, bring renewed focus to the threats it faces. Along the way, the director Eric Liner of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology unravels the unlikely story of how local and international activism saved the world from losing the Philippine eagle forever – an activism that continues to this day.
Director: Eric Liner
Producer: John Bowman
Website: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
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