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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
Festiarpía 2006- The Harpy Eagle Festival
Sean Davis — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program    Share
On 10 April 2002 the Harpy Eagle was officially declared the national bird of Panama. This law also served to afford the Harpy Eagle more protection by imposing harsh fines for anyone who captured, killed, or trafficked this species. In 2005, to commemorate this special day, The Peregrine Fund-Panama held the first annual Harpy Eagle Festival (Festiarpía). We wanted to host a special event to educate the public about the Harpy Eagle and raise awareness of the threats and dangers to this large forest raptor through a series of activities and games. We also invited other conservation organizations working in Panama to use this opportunity to network with each other and to set up booths and displays for general public awareness. It turned out to be a very successful day and left us with every intention to do it again in 2006.

Fast forward exactly one year. After months of preparation we were ready for Festiarpía 2006. We got off to an early start arriving at the park at 6:45 to set up and get ready. The festival officially didn’t start until 10:00, but we needed a lot of time to receive the other organizations that had to set up their tents and displays. By 10:00 everyone was ready to go. We opened the festival with three flights of our guest of honor, “Luigi,” our education Harpy Eagle. He performed flawlessly, and was rewarded with hoots and applause from the public as they watched their national icon soar across the roped off soccer field.

After the demonstration flights it was game time. The kids could choose between one or more of the following: the Raptor Obstacle Course where the participants had to run through different obstacles that symbolized dangers for migrating raptors- powerlines, tornados, rainstorms, and polluted areas, before arriving at the finish line; the Building a Nest Race, a sack race where the participants had to hop to one end of the playing field, pick up sticks , and bring them back to the other end to build a nest; the Feeding the Chick Race, where participants had to run down to the food area, put a spoon in their mouth, and scoop up some marbles (food) and walk it back to the nest without letting it fall; or, the Raptor Vision Game that was a magnetic dart game where they had to try and hit pictures of different prey animals of raptors. The more daring participants could play “fly like a Harpy Eagle” or “climb like an ornithologist,” a zip line and rappelling rope that was set up by a local mountaineering/climbing group.

Harpy Eagle costume contest
Harpy Eagle costume contest
Once the games were over it was time for the costume contest. We had 17 participants from three different categories. There were some really creative costumes — from a couple of different types of owls to a Harpy Eagle chick just hatching out of the egg. I know the judges had a hard time making their decisions. Fortunately we had enough donated prizes to give one to each participant.

While the kids were occupied with the games and the contest, the parents had several different options to choose from. They could stroll around and check out the booths of the different environmental organizations. They could also visit one of our tables to buy a T-shirt or cap, watch a video on the Harpy Eagle, make a donation for something on the donation board, or participate in our silent auction.

Later in the day we did a second series of flights with Luigi. Once again he performed flawlessly, this time for an even bigger crowd. We also gave the kids a second opportunity to play games. The festival came to a close at 3:00, and just in time as the rain showed up at about 3:10. We estimated we had around 500 visitors at the festival and were happy that all of our hard work had paid off.

Children work on art projects at Festiarpía.
Children work on art projects at Festiarpía.

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