Harpy Releases in Belize
Phil Hannon— 8 November 2004 — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research ShareI have just recently finished my stay as a Harpy Eagle Hack Site volunteer in Belize. I arrived at the Las Cuevas Research Station in the Chiquibul Forest in May of this year and the time since has been the most amazing, gratifying experience I could have imagined. I was part of a team responsible for the hacking and care of four juvenile Harpy Eagles, two males and two females.
Unfortunately, in early July, we discovered one of the males dead near his feed tree. The causes behind his death have remained undetermined. A few weeks later, the female with band letters “LG,” who had been the most successful hunter of the bunch, began venturing west from the release site. We were able to catch up to her about once a week for about a month; each time she had moved further and further west. “LG” eventually went so far that we were unable to hike to her position in a day.
In mid-August the male, “DM,” and female, “MX,” were released in their new home, Rio Bravo. We quickly noticed a huge difference between the Chiquibul Forest and Rio Bravo. The understory is more open and the wildlife much more prevalent; the endangered ocellated turkey, all three toucans that occur in Belize, white-tailed deer, and gray foxes are seen regularly (not to mention the several jaguar sightings we had in only three months!)
In early September, Sharon Matola, director of The Belize Zoo and coordinator for the Harpy Eagle Restoration Program in Belize, arranged an over flight with the Belizean Defense Force to attempt to locate “LG’s” radio signal. After a second flight we remained unsuccessful, and after nearly two full months without getting her signal, we were beginning to wonder if we ever would hear from her again. Now back home in the States, I recently received an e-mail, saying that the third over flight was a charm and “LG’s” signal had been found about ten miles south of Caracol! This is great news as she is the first soft-released Harpy to reach independence in Belize! She is still too deep in the forest to access by foot. The Peregrine Fund, in cooperation with the Belize Defense Force, will continue to fly regularly to check her location in hopes that she will come to an area where she can be trapped and fitted with a satellite transmitter, so her position can be monitored more regularly.
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