Harpy Eagle Releases in Panama
Marta Curti— 17 February 2004 — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research ShareIt’s that time of year again on the Harpy Eagle project! Two more eaglets are once again ready to be released into Soberania National Park in Panama. I arrived at the hack site on a Wednesday ready for a mellow week of releases and all-day vigils at the blind. Instead, I experienced a week of day-long hiking in search of birds, some sadness and one or two surprises.
Despite all my wishing, however, I would soon find out that his transmitter was working just fine. At first light the following morning, volunteer Mario Guerrero and I set out in search of Yala Purba. We located him above the bank of the Agua Salud River, his body lying beside a fallen tree. We examined him closely for signs of bullet wounds – incidents of poaching in the park usually increase during the dry season and we have noticed a lot of hunting activity lately– but found nothing to indicate that he had been shot. That, at least, was a relief. If a bird has to die, it is much easier to take when its death is from natural causes and not at the hands of humans. Later, we were able to X-Ray his body and take some tissue samples. The best theory we have is that he was bit by a snake, but we will probably never really know. And the not knowing makes his death even harder to take.
Through the sadness and disappointment in this turn of events, however, we still had 11 other eagles to take care of, three of which were several hours’ hike from the cabin and needed to be checked on. A happy surprise came when we located Sulub, the oldest male Harpy Eagle in Soberania National Park. Sulub is quite a character and had been in the habit of hanging around his feeding tree waiting to be fed while other, younger birds had already begun to hunt for themselves (we place food for the birds at night so they can’t see us and won’t make the association between humans and food). Needless to say, we were quite pleased when, a few months ago, Sulub began to travel more extensively and often would not return to his feeding tree for many days in a row. By the time I arrived at the hack site, he had not been seen for a while so we decided to go look for him to make sure all was well.
The following day we released the two young Harpy Eagles and they are doing well. As I sat in the blind, watching these birds experience the wilds of the forest for the first time, I felt joy and some fear. After all, they have yet to learn about the hidden dangers and adventures that await them and there is only so much we can do to protect them. But, like the Harpies, we too never know, when working for wildlife conservation, what surprises we might encounter. At least we are in this adventure together.
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