The Moroccan Association for Falconry and Raptors Conservation (MAFRC) successfully scored and released a female Iberian Eagle. This operation, supervised by the High Commission for Water and Forests and the Fight Against Desertification (HCEFLCD) and executed by the MAFRC in partnership with Consejeria de Medio Ambiente y Ordenacion del Territorio of the Junta de Andalucia and the Migres Foundation, will enable the identification of threats to these birds in Morocco in order to take corrective measures.
On November 17, 2018, a female Spanish Imperial Eagle was recovered by the AMFCR in the Bouznika region. The bird, a young female born in 2017 in Spain, was weak, distressed and affected by coccidiosis.
Treated and then rehabilitated during a month in an aviary by the AMFCR, its marking and its release were planned with the agreement and the close collaboration of the High Commission of the Waters and Forests and the Fight Against Desertification (HCEFLCD), the Consejeria de Medio Ambiente y Ordenacion del Territorio de la Junta de Andalucia and the Migres Foundation.
A 45 gram GPS loggers and a yellow Darvic M06 ring were fitted on the bird that was successfully released on 17 December 2018. The bird has been observed in good health in the Benslimane region’s oak trees several times, guaranteeing the success of its reintegration to nature.
As a reminder, the Spanish Imperial Eagle is an emblematic species that almost disappeared in the 1970s, mainly because of electrocution, the scarcity of prey (especially rabbit), poisoning and modification of its habitats. The recovery and conservation plan of the Spanish Imperial Eagle set up by the different Spanish provinces allowed the stabilization, then the progressive increase of its population.
Today, between 600 and 700 pairs of Eagles populate the Peninsula, versus 120/130 pairs in 1970. The Moroccan breeding population, which existed in low density in the North-West of the Country (Maamora Forest, Plain of Loukkos), is considered as probably extinct around 1940. However, as a result of Spain’s considerable efforts for the conservation of the species, the Moroccan and North African observations of erratic immature Spanish Imperial Eagles coming from the Peninsula are more and more frequent.
In 2017, at least four Spanish Imperial eagles crossed the Strait of Gibraltar towards North Africa. It was in the 4 cases immature birds:
- A bird photographed, after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, behind the port of Tangier-Med, September 12 (R. El Khamlichi).
- A bird photographed at the same place on October 6, also just after crossing the strait (R. El Khamlichi).
- A bird also photographed on the same site on November 10 (R. El Khamlichi, Cécile Krystelle and Radu Adrian).
A male tracked by satellite in Andalusia crossed the strait in September 2017. The bird traveled from northern Morocco to Algeria and then to the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara and Guelmim. It then moved north on the Atlantic coast between Casablanca and Rabat. Karim Rousselon was able to locate and photograph the bird on October 27, 2017 (Fig.3). The bird has not since left Morocco where he stays mainly in the protected hunting reserves, which seem to offer him protection and food. Hope to see a breeding case soon.
Satellite monitoring of these birds will provide essential information for the identification of the main threats affecting these birds in Morocco, and can therefore provide corrective measures. In the long term, this work orchestrated by the HCEFLCD fits into the framework of the implementation of a National Strategy for the Conservation of Birds of Prey in Morocco, which should make it possible to ensure the survival of the most endangered raptor populations in Morocco. Raptors are an essential link to ensure the balance of ecosystems.