Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Eagle killed by hunters

Image4.jpgA ‘celebrity’ eagle from the Kruger National Park that starred in a British wildlife television series‚ Fierce‚ has been killed by subsistence hunters in Mozambique‚ researchers from the University of Cape Town have confirmed. The 4.6 kg female martial eagle debuted on British television earlier this month in a nature documentary narrated by well-known TV presenter Steve Backshall. The bird was fitted with an electronic tag under the watchful eye of the British film crew‚ who were documenting scientists’ efforts to stem the decline of these rare predatory birds. But just a few weeks later‚ the feathered star of the show has been found dead in a hunter’s snare in rural Mozambique‚ the UCT researchers said. “We detected that the bird was no longer moving about in a normal fashion‚” said Rowen van Eeden from the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology Centre of Excellence at the University of Cape Town. Van Eeden and a colleague then set off to the bird’s last-known location‚ 160 km away from where it was tagged‚ in a remote corner of neighbouring Mozambique which is currently in the midst of renewed civil unrest. The team had to battle through inhospitable terrain where access by vehicles is limited and the dense bushveld makes travelling difficult‚ Van Eeden said. “We followed the Cahora Bassa power line as far as possible‚ which was meant to help us get to the location faster but we still had to dig our 4×4 out of thick river sand twice‚” he added. After an hour walk into the bush‚ they found the eagle in some long grass with its neck firmly trapped in a snare likely set to catch small antelope.
Rowen van Eeden and the remains of the once majestic Martial eagle(photo)

Van Eeden said the killing of the large bird of prey illustrated the risks that these birds faced and highlighted a potential factor contributing to the species’ decline. This is the third adult eagle out of eight fitted with GPS tags to die outside of Kruger since the start of Martial Eagle research in the world-famous Park three years ago. Two have now died at the hands of hunters in Mozambique and one was electrocuted after flying into power lines in another neighbouring country‚ Swaziland.

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