Bonelli’s Eagle in Sicily 2018 – an extraordinary year
In 2011 there were just over twenty pairs of these beautiful eagles nesting in Sicily and the population was plummeting through the wholesale theft of eggs and young for the rich illegal falconry market. The risk was that the bird would become extinct in Italy – and the total population is estimated to be under a thousand, so the importance of the Sicilian birds is clear.
The Gruppo di Tutela Rapaci (GTR) was formed in 2010 and its volunteers started there surveillance of the nest sites that had been robbed the previous year and since that year the work has been extended to around 40 known nesting sites. Steadily the numbers of young birds successfuly fledging increased and this year reached an unrivalled total with 39 young birds already having left the nest with another two about to do so.
It is believed that only 1 in 10 birds will survive to reach maturity so the scale of the increase in population is very encouraging.
The GTR group includes volunteers from LIPU, EBN, WWF, SWF, MAN, CABS and others and with financial support from, among others, LIPU-UK the technical work has become more effective. A European Union Life project has allowed 20 of the young to be fitted with GPS tracking devices so more can be learned about their movements in order to help more birds in the future. Many of the nest are monitored by trail cameras and, at the site that I visited in May 2018, the local villagers were very keen to help protect “their” eagles.
Practical conservation of the highest order – full marks to all who took part and the full story can be read at: http://www.gruppotutelarapaci.it/en/2018/06/27/bonellis-eagle-extraordinary-results-sicily/