The Javan Hawk-eagle

Javan Hawk Eagle The plight of the Javan hawk-eagle was brought to national and international attention after the bird became the official Indonesian symbol, an example of the country's rare fauna. Preliminary investigations on its nesting behaviour in the wild show that the population is still far below that of internationally accepted levels for a viable population size. Current numbers are estimated at 200 to 300 birds. The biology of this species appear to be similar to most other tropical hawk-eagles. It inhabits lush forest and feeds mainly on large birds and mammals such as the jungle fowl and stink badger respectively.

This rare bird is increasingly threatened by disturbances caused to its habitat by logging, and poaching by bird hunters for the pet trade. The Javan hawk-eagle has been designated an endangered species, and increasing measures have been undertaken to ensure its survival through immediate and effective protection of the segments of rain forests which constitute its habitat.

An increasing awareness of the Javan hawk-eagle has been facilitated by its close resemblance to the mythological Garuda bird displayed on the Indonesian coat of arms. This resemblance contributes to the hawk-eagle's popularity as a national mascot, for the Garuda has enjoyed a similar popularity, being frequently depicted on temple reliefs, in sculpture, puppetry and paintings. Reliefs of the Garuda can be found on the Classic Period temples of Borobudur and Lara Jonggrang at Prambanan, where the bird appears together with the Hindu god of Preservation, Visnu. Sculptures of the Garuda, and Visnu on the Garuda, can also be found in many temples spanning the centuries from the Classic to the Late Classic period.

The Garuda is also portrayed in the wayang kulit of Java and Bali, as well as on wayang beber in such stories as Panji Sepuh (Elder Panji). The Javan hawk-eagle's likeness to Garuda has undoubtedly helped to present the need to protect the eagle, not just as a national symbol but also as part of a historical heritage.

by Goh Geok Yean

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