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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field

"Notes from the Field" provides frequent updates and pictures from our biologists and students who are working in the field or at our headquarters, the World Center for Birds of Prey.

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Harpy Eagles: Successful Hunters..!

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Harpy Eagles: Successful Hunters...!

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Adventure with a Harpy Eagle in Alvarado Stream

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Adventure with a Harpy Eagle in Alvarado Stream

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A new Harpy Eagle Festival successfully completed in Panama!

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

A New Harpy Eagle Festival Successfully Completed in Panama!

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Harpy Eagle Festival 2012

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

National Bird of the Republic of Panama

In April 2002, the Government of the Republic of Panama formally declared the Harpy Eagle as the National Bird of Panama through the Law No. 18 of April 10, 2002. From this date, the majestic Harpy Eagle is formally considered a National Symbol for Panamanians. With the enacting of this law, April 10 became an especial ecological day. Therefore, the Fondo Peregrino-Panama, The Peregrine Fund and the National Environmental Authority of Panama promoted the celebration of the especial festival called: Festiarpia.

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The Queen of the Forest Canopy: The Harpy Eagle

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

The following story was narrated by Calixto Conampia during a field trip with Jose Vargas. Calixto is a technician in our conservation and research project in Darien. He has the firm conviction that "learning is never late when you have hopes and dreams."

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An Unforgettable Experience in Darien

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

The field experience below was written by Peter Montgomery (age 17), how was a volunteer in our Harpy Eagle Conservation project in Darien for a couple of weeks. Peter is now known in the communities that he visited by the name Imama Kundra (Young Jaguar in Embera language). In a few weeks, Peter earned the appreciation of local people, who are now wondering and asking frequently, When Imama Kundra comes back?

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A Special Day for the National Bird of Panama

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

On Sunday 10 of April, 2011, Panamanians celebrated a special date: The Day of the National Bird of Panama, the Harpy Eagle Day. News in national newspapers, invitations through the radio and TV stations, and chain e-mails were the most common means of communications during the weeks that preceded the celebration event called FestiHarpia.

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Another step in our learning: GPS technology and the capture of an adult Harpy Eagle in the wilderness of Darien,Panama

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Hidden among the vegetation that provide habitat for large Neotropical predators as Harpy Eagles and Jaguars, Calixto Conampia, Rutilio Calderon, Darisnel Carpio and me, waited in silence for three consecutive days (thirty-six hours time sloth between 6 am and 3 pm) until we captured the adult female Harpy Eagle in the fourth day in the province of Darien, Panama. The eagle was captured in the vicinity of the nest, which is located an hour and fifteen minutes from an indigenous Embera community that collaborates and participates in the Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research Program.

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Who I was, where I am and who I want to be

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Editor's note: The following is an article by Darisnel Carpio Cardenas, who is working on the Harpy Eagle project in his home area of Darien.

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Experiences with the Reintroduction of a Captive-bred Harpy Eagle into a wild Ecosystem in Darien, Panama.

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Two seasons have gone by in the Neotropical forest of Darien since the release of the Harpy Eagle called KC, well-known in the local community as Nepono, which means “flower” in the Embera language. KC was released into the Forest Reserve of Chepigana with several goals in mind - all of which are aimed at developing guidelines for a successful reintroduction of captive-bred Harpy Eagles in natural environments where wild Harpy Eagles already live. We decided to release KC in the forest surrounding the community of La Marea, for several reasons. But, the main idea was to influence a courtship between our captive-bred bird and a resident wild male Harpy Eagle that recently lost his mate.

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Adventure in the Forests of Darien: Who is Nepono? A Children’s Perspective

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

“Nepono is a four-year-old Harpy Eagle that hatched in captivity in Panama City. She is curious, calm, observant, and, most importantly, a peaceful bird: this eagle would never cause any harm to people. We should protect and conserve her in this amazing forest.” This was the answer Embera technician, Liofano Berrugate, gave to a child’s question, ”who is Nepono?”

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Harpy Eagle Release Update—May 2009

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

I was with the technicians in Darien on Sunday 24 May and Monday 25 May, organizing KC’s monitoring schedule. We also obtained and revised the data already collected from the wild juveniles.

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Rehabilitated Wild Harpy Eagle Flies Free Once Again

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Probably the greatest threat that the Harpy Eagle faces in the short-term is that of human persecution. Many of the reported “sightings” that occur throughout its range (from southern Mexico to northern Argentina) involve the bird being shot and more often than not, killed. As a means to mitigate human-caused mortality of this species, The Peregrine Fund began an extensive environmental education program in Panama in 2001, to coincide with the Harpy Eagle captive breeding and release programs.

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Looking for a Flower “Nepono”

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

In a shack immersed in the middle of the forest, the sound of a bird, a monkey howl, and the lovely call of a small girl wakes me up this morning. The little girl calls me “Embera Torro,” which means “white Embera.”

Landscape in the study area
Landscape in the study area
Meanwhile, while I am mentally planning the day’s activities, I hear someone calling me: “Harpy Eagle, the coffee is ready,” and then I stand up to meet with the Embera family to have a breakfast. It is around 4:30 am. After a cold shower, each member of the Harpy Eagle team is ready to look for “Nepono,” the female Harpy Eagle that was hatched in captivity, and that is now part of an experimental study aimed at gaining a better understanding of the ecology of this bird of prey. The name “Nepono” means flower in the Embera dialect. This name comes from a young child from La Marea community, who identified our bird with this nickname.

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Harpy Eagle Release Update-March 2009

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

The question: can we successfully release a captive-bred female Harpy Eagle into the territory of an adult wild male, who recently lost his mate? In order for the release to be considered a success, the female would have to remain in the male’s territory, with the idea that they would eventually form a pair bond and produce offspring. To increase the chances of the male and the female interacting, The Peregrine Fund field technicians working in the area constructed a specially designed aviary within the male’s territory, very close to the original nest tree. The idea would be to hold the female in the aviary for two to three weeks, while observing from a blind a few meters away. Biologists would make sure that the female was safe and eating, but also record any interaction between the two eagles: the male perching on or near the aviary; the male bringing the female food; or both of them vocalizing together would all be good signs that they may form a pair bond. If none of these behaviors are observed, then the female will not be released in that area.

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Harpy Eagle Release Program Update

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

In 2005 we released an independent male Harpy Eagle named DT into the Rio Bravo area of northern Belize. After several months, he began dispersing in a westerly direction. He crossed the Belize/Guatemala border and soon arrived at Tikal National Park (TNP). For the past few months, he has remained within the park boundaries, and, more recently, has begun to display the first signs of breeding behavior: defense of territory and rudimentary nest building.

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Released Harpy Eagles Disperse Throughout the Selva Maya

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

The Selva Maya – an expanse of forest that reaches into Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, is the largest contiguous forest in Central America. In the heart of this tropical jungle, at the Rio Bravo Management Area, Belize, The Peregrine Fund has been releasing independent, captive-bred Harpy Eagles since 2004, as part of our Harpy Eagle Conservation Program. Since the first bird was released from her kennel and took her first tentative flights into her new home, we have released 10 independent sub-adult Harpy Eagles into this area. All released birds are fitted with a PTT transmitter that allows us to track their movements via satellite.

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Releasing Harpy Eagles at an Older Age May Help them Reach Independence Faster

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

When we first began releasing captive-bred Harpy Eagles in Panama, we did so when they were approximately six months old in order to mimic their natural fledging age. While the releases went smoothly, we noticed that it took the young birds between six months and up to two years before they were hunting on their own. This is consistent with the development patterns of wild-born Harpy Eagles as well. However, whereas adult Harpy Eagles are prepared to continue feeding their young for this amount of time, the effort was time consuming and difficult for our volunteers and biologists who were often tracking and feeding up to ten released birds or more at a time. In order to test the theory that releasing birds at an older age would significantly decrease the time it takes them to become independent, we began releasing them at around 18 months of age. To date, we have released four birds, two males and two females, at this advanced age.

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Update on the Harpy Eagle Captive Breeding Program

Saskia Santamaria — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Harpy Eagles usually lay a clutch of two eggs, and although both may hatch, usually only one chick survives to fledge. Once fledged, the juvenile may stay with its parents for a period of up to two or three years while it learns to hunt and care for itself. Once the young becomes independent and starts looking for its own mate and territory the adults are able to attempt breeding again. This long interval between breeding attempts and resulting slow rate of reproduction makes the species extremely vulnerable to direct human impact, such as persecution (shooting and trapping), long before deforestation destroys their habitat.

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Adventures with Stella: Relocating a Harpy Eagle, January 2006

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

The task seemed straightforward enough: travel to Belize, help two members of our field crew, Chris Hatten and Ryan Phillips, capture a female Harpy Eagle named Stella, and relocate her to a safer place. Stella is one of four captive reared Harpy Eagles that The Peregrine Fund released into the Chiquibul Forest in western Belize. However, when incursions into the area by poachers became a concern for the Harpy Eagles’ safety, we decided to relocate them into a safer expanse of forest in northern Belize. By this time, Stella had moved roughly 18 kilometers from the release site and was spending most of her time in a rugged, karstic limestone area of the forest that is very difficult to traverse on foot. To make matters more difficult, very little fresh water sources are found in the area, so all of the water needed for the journey, we had to carry.

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Harpy Eagle Release Program-Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, Belize

Ryan Phillips — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

In August of 2004, the Harpy Eagle Restoration Project was moved from the Las Cuevas Research Station in the Chiquibul National Forest in the southwestern part of the country to the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (RBCMA) in the north. Since then, the birds have acclimated well and the restoration of the Harpy Eagle in Belize is proving to be a real success.

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Harpy Eagle Release Update

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

On October 4 of 2003 we at The Peregrine Fund - Panama received the distressing news that a Harpy Eagle had been shot and injured in a remote area of the Darien Province of Panama. She had been rescued by government authorities and was being brought to our facilities for care. Not one month later, on October 31, did we receive word of another Harpy Eagle, this one a young male, that had also been shot and injured. He, too, was brought to our facilities. And then in March, on a tidal wave of bad news, a third Harpy Eagle, also shot, was on its way to us.

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Harpy Releases in Belize

Phil Hannon — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

I 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.

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First Independent Harpy Eagle Released in Bocas del Toro, Panamá

Kathia Herrera — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

On 1 June 2004, members of the Bonyic and Solon communities in Bocas del Toro, representatives from ANAM (the environmental authority), and members of the media joined The Peregrine Fund-Panama (TPFP) for the release of a three-year-old Harpy Eagle, named “2001.” 2001 was hatched and raised in captivity at TPFP’s Neotropical Raptor Center in Panama. She was released as a young bird into Soberania National Park. There, biologists monitored her regularly and provided her with food, until they were sure that she was able to successfully hunt on her own. Since she reached complete independence of our care, it was time to re-release her into a more remote forest within Panama.

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Harpy Eagle Releases in Panama

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Things have been pretty active at the Harpy Eagle release site in Panama these past few weeks. We now have 15 free-flying eagles, several of which began to disperse long distances from the release site all at the same time! Though this is good news for the project and for the birds – as it means they are becoming more independent and are beginning to hunt a bit on their own, it means a lot of hard work for the volunteers and staff who have to keep up with them.

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Harpy Eagle Releases in Panama

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

It’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.

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Harpy Eagle Releases in Belize

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

At the end of October, I flew to Las Cuevas Research Station, in Belize to check on the status of the four Harpy Eagles we had released there in April and June of this year, respectively. I was excited to see the birds again. It had been more than four months since I had last set eyes on these particular Harpies. I was also going to meet two new volunteers for the first time and help them set up individual feeding trees for the eagles.

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Harpy Eagle Releases in Panama

Angel Muela — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

At least two of the Harpy Eagles that have been released are hunting on a regular basis and are no longer dependent on food we provide. For a long while, we suspected that these birds were obtaining their own food, but it was not until we began following each of these eagles daily for more than a week, that we could directly confirm their hunting abilities. These two birds are both female and demonstrate a preference for sloths, perhaps due to the fact that a sloth is one prey item that is relatively easy to catch. We believe that sloths are one of the primary animals that young Harpy Eagles catch, and that later, once the birds have refined their hunting techniques, they will begin to capture more difficult prey, like howler monkeys and other primates.

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Release of Harpy Eagles in Belize

Angel Muela — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

In June, two other Harpy Eagles joined the first set of birds that had been released in Belize in April. The four eagles continue to develop perfectly, and the older male (Black DX) has been the most adventurous of the bunch as he continues to explore the surrounding forest and ventures the farthest. All four eagles continue to return to the hack site regularly to feed. We believe it will still be a few more months before we see the first hunting attempts made by one of these birds, but, the volunteers in charge of caring for the birds have nothing but positive things to report.

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Traditional Embera and Wounaan Children Stories Contest

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Another day on Harpy Eagle conservation concluded last April, as we finally awarded the winners of the Embera and Wounaan Children Story Contest. This award ceremony is somehow different, and it was not limited to choosing just one winner.

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A Day of Rest in Darién

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Waking up early in the morning can be a stressing affair in the city, but surrounded by the songs of many birds and the constant chirping of crickets, it is something wonderful. I have often asked myself, “How do these sounds come together to create such beautiful music?” After being awakened from such melody, a quick and refreshing shower is a way to start preparing for a good day of work in Darien, as they say in Embera. They take a shower sometimes three or four times a day. But today is Sunday, day of rest! There are a thousand and one things to do in the forest, but today we wanted to do something a bit different, talk about the costumes and traditions of the Embera and Wounaan community. Most of my work here is shared with six young members of the Embera and Wounaan community.

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March-April 2003

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

As we sat huddled in the observation blind, quietly battling the mosquitoes and black flies, the first strokes of light set the forest ablaze with green, as the sun's rays began to peak from between the large Chicle trees that composed most of our view. In the distance, we heard howler monkeys greet the day with their typical guttural wails that echoed across the forest and sounded like a chorus of 20, when in reality only two or three were calling. The scent of rain lingered in the air. Amidst the hustle and bustle of a typical morning in the Belizean wilderness, something very atypical was about to happen. The forest was getting some new residents—two captive-bred Harpy Eagles being released into this Central American country for the first time ever. As we waited anxiously for the Harpy Eagles to emerge from the hack box, their home for the past three weeks, and venture out into the wild for the first time, I couldn't help but think of the long process that brought these birds here in the first place.

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March 2003

Angel Muela — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

March has been a month with some ups and downs. On March 6, two young Harpy Eagles were released in Soberania National Park. Unfortunately, lack of experience caused MC to be killed by a Jaguar the day after she was released. Even though some natural predation is to be expected (in the wild, a high percentage of animals die within their first year due to predation), our goal is to minimize those events as much as possible.

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Volunteer Experience in Darien

Philippe Potvin-Simon — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

During my summer vacation I had the chance and privilege of working with the “Fondo Peregrino-Panama” in their Harpy Eagle Research and Conservation Program in Darien, which is Panama’s southernmost and jungle covered province.

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February 2003

Angel Muela — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Moving the Harpy Eagle breeding pairs from our headquarters in Boise to our Neotropical Raptor Center in Panama had an incredible and positive impact on the reproductive behavior of the birds. Their new breeding chambers, located in the middle of the forest, combined with a rich and diverse diet and careful management of the clutches of eggs, allowed us to hatch 17 eaglets, a number that exceeded our wildest expectations. What a successful year!

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Campaigning for Partnerships in Harpy Eagle Conservation Amongst Indigenous Communities in Panama

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

To spend a day traveling by boat or on foot in Panama’s Darien is always an experience to be savored. Andrew Heath and I spent two fantastic weeks there, visiting all 12 villages of the Sambu Shire to campaign for support of a cooperative agreement between the Embera and Wounaan people and The Peregrine Fund.

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Harpy Eagle Breeding at the Neotropical Raptor Center (February-April 2002)

Angel Muela — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Just a few months after the Harpy Eagle breeding pairs were moved from the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise to our Neotropical Raptor Center in Panama, we have achieved and exceeded with great enthusiasm the results we expected. At the end of January, two Harpy Eagle chicks, produced by Venezuelan female “GN,” and captive-bred male “Zih,” hatched without any problems. These chicks, a male and a female, are growing very well and are presently in a chamber right next to, and in full view of, an adult Harpy Eagle so that the youngsters can relate themselves naturally to their species.

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November 2001

José de Jesús Vargas González — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

We left Panama City, heading to the Darien which is an hour away by plane. The Darien Region is one of the richest ecosystems of the country, and is the habitat of the Harpy Eagle, Orange Breasted Falcon, and many other raptors. At the town of LaPalma, a member of an indigenous community would guide us to Manene, a small village located a day's worth of travel by dug-out canoe upstream of the River Balsa. Travel by canoe is quite an adventure; one can observe Osprey, perching Bat Falcons, egrets feeding, and many other birds. Admiring the fauna and vast colors of the surrounding trees and scenery along the river, we finally reach our destination.

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Harpy Eagle Breeding at the Neotropical Raptor Center (October 2001)

Angel Muela — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

October has been an important month for our project in Panama . We finally moved our Harpy Eagle breeding stock from the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise to our Neotropical Raptor Center at the City of Knowledge just outside of Panama City. Most people of Panama consider the Harpy Eagle to be their National Bird, and the news of the Harpy Eagles’ arrival in Panama was received with enthusiasm and community support. A total of six eagles were transported to the Center where we now have a total of 11 Harpy Eagles.

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August 2001

Janeene Touchton — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

MV, a young female Harpy Eagle, gets her name from letters engraved in a metallic blue band on her left leg. She hatched January 16, 1998 at the Zoological Society of San Diego and was reared there until April 1998 when she was transferred to the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise. At the World Center she was puppet-reared and also spent time with an adult female Harpy Eagle. In August 1998, MV was transferred to an enclosure in Panama’s Soberania National Forest for hack and release. Within a year she had captured her first Three-toed Sloth despite her lack of parental guidance. After dispersing far from her hack site, MV was relocated to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in October 1999 following the relocation of James, another young captive-bred Harpy Eagle. BCI was the ideal location for the eagles’ release because it is a research sanctuary highly protected by game wardens and ecological police. Additionally, long-term research supported by the Smithsonian’s well-established facilities on the island provides readily available data such as population numbers of other species present.

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Harpy Eagle Breeding at the Neotropical Raptor Center (July 2001)

Angel Muela — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Within the last year we have secured an excellent arrangement with various Panamanian governmental organizations, most notably the National Environment Authority, City of Knowledge, and the Panama Canal Authority. Through their strong support we now have offices and housing, as well as a large bit of rainforest adjacent to a national park. And this, minutes from Panama City! The Neotropical Raptor Center (NRC), which is The Peregrine Fund’s facility for the region, is home to our Harpy Eagle and Orange-breasted Falcon (OBF) Projects, and it will diversify as needs arise. 

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“SWEET BABY JAMES”

Angel Muela — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

In August 2000, one of our Harpy Eagles, James, was shot and killed by a poacher just outside of the Barro Colorado Nature Monument, an island within the Pamana Canal. James (named thus because one of his transmitter frequencies ended in 007—"James Bond") was released on Barro Colorado Island (BCI) a year before and had yielded vast amounts of information on Harpy Eagle biology. James hatched in September 1997 and was released in nearby Soberania National Park in March 1998. A few months later, we trapped him in Soberania National Park, as he was roaming areas known to have poacher activity. James was then used as an educational bird and visited many schools and communities.

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May 1999 - October 1999

Alberto Palleroni — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

This is a PDF archive:May 1999 - October 1999

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August 1998 - December 1998

Angel Muela — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

This is a PDF archive:August 1998 - December 1998

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December 1997 - July 1998

Alan Brown, Tracy Brown — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

This is a PDF archive:December 1997 - July 1998

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