On 17 decembre 2018, the High Commission for Water, Forests and the Fight against Desertification (HCEFLCD), together with the MAFRC, the Consejería de Medio Ambiente de la Junta de Andalucia and the Fondacion MIGRES, released an immature female Iberian Eagle (Aquila adalberti) after having equipped it with a GPS tracker. This bird, recovered in a state of distress in the Bouznika region on 18/11/2018, was treated and rehabilitated for nearly a month by the AMFCR, before recovering a physical condition deemed satisfactory to be able to return to nature.
More than 2000 kilometers and a month later, on 15/01/2019, the Iberian Eagle M06 was found dead in Dakhla Bay by Nicolò Calcagno. As no autopsy could have been performed, the cause of death will unfortunately remain unknown. Although no evidence of fracture was found, the lifeless body of the eagle appears to have drifted into Dakhla Bay a few days before being stranded on the beach, where it will be found.
The plucked Eagle of Bonneli
On 05/06/2018, HCEFLCD and AMFCR released an immature female Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) that had accidentally been caught in the protective nets of a poultry farm. The bird was banded OPX and released in the Bouznika area. On 08/01/2019, 217 days after being released, AMFCR was contacted by a resident of the Sidi Bettache region who claimed to have caught the eagle while he was trying to attack one of his hens. Habits definitely have a hard life! The bird will be recovered by the AMFCR the next day, alive, but unfortunately all its remnants have been cut with scissors. OPX has been placed in a rehabilitation aviary, where he will stay until he has moulted all his feathers, which will take several months.
The mysterious death of a Royal Eagle
Finally, on 12/12/2018, HCEFLCD and AMFCR released an immature female Royal Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) ringed M01. This bird, handed over to the AMFCR care centre in 2017 after being illegally disarmed, will be rehabilitated for many months thanks to the use of falconry techniques. The bird will be found dead on 25/01/2019 in Bir Nasser (Benslimane region) by the USCFS (Unité de Surveillance et de Contrôle de la Faune Sauvage), which will hand over the body to the local ONSSA (Office National de Sécurité Sanitaire des produits Alimentaires) for a viral analysis, which will turn out to be negative. No autopsy on the cause of death will be performed.
Prospects for the future
These 3 examples partially illustrate the difficult conditions in which large raptors must operate, and the many dangers they face, even if in the 2 mortality cases mentioned above, no autopsy could be carried out. In the future, autopsies of found dead birds of prey should be systematized through specific training for ONSSA technicians, so as to clearly identify the causes of mortality and, if necessary, take corrective measures.
However, all hopes are not lost because 2 other Bonelli’s Eagles (M046 and M041) and an Iberian Eagle (UP) equipped with GPS beacons continue to provide useful data to this day. In 2019 and 2020, AMFCR, in collaboration with HCEFLCD and IUCN, will place around 30 GPS beacons on raptors. This major operation will provide essential information for the implementation of specific conservation plans for the most threatened birds of prey in the Kingdom.