MN News & Updates

Bonelli's eagles still die by non-natural causes in Catalonia

Electrocution and direct persecution kill three specimens subjected to telemetric monitoring with satellite transmitters and GSM by MN Consultants

The last electrocution occurred recently near the Montsant Natural Park

On December 30 technicians of MN Consultants found the carcass of a Bonelli's eagle (Aquila fasciata) with evident signs of electrocution. It lay at the foot of an electrical tower, in the municipality of la Vilella Baixa (Priorat), near the Montsant Natural Park. The specimen was the male from one of the three only couples of Bonelli's eagle breeding in this protected area, which was subject to a management and monitoring program since 2008 and therefore equipped with a GPS and a satellite data transmitter which allowed its location.

Bonelli's Eagle is an endangered and strictly protected raptor. It is also considered one of the "umbrella" species of Mediterranean ecosystems, in the sense that its management and the protection of landscapes where it lives supports many other species and habitats and the functioning of the whole ecosystem. Among all the Continent large eagles, Bonelli's eagle is the most strongly linked to Mediterranean ecosystems, so it has become a symbol. It is currently in a critical situation. The regression of its populations everywhere is mainly due to electrocution in certain specific types of electric towers. These events could be particularly serious for the population when territorial reproductive adults are concerned.

Unfortunately, the story of this couple followed since 2000, has been unlucky despite all the efforts invested in its conservation. It has suffered both a continued turnover of individuals and a range with low prey density. The Natural Park initiated an exemplary program of measures, which has integrated all local stakeholders. With the scientific support of MN Consultants, several measures focused on improving the quality of the territory, especially by promoting the availability of prey species (pigeons, rabbits and partridges), have been implemented. All these works have allowed so far the successful achievement of all the planned conservation goals: the maintenance of the couple in the territory, the restoration of the nesting area in the natural park and the successful and prolific reproduction since 2010.

Other recent deaths by electrocution and shooting

This is already the third Bonelli's eagle bearing a transmitter linked to programs for either monitoring the range of couples in trouble, improving the habitat quality and evaluating the measures implemented, which has been found dead by non-natural causes in last two years. In 2014 another male was found electrocuted in Gelida (Anoia), in an area already knew by the electrocution of other members from the same couple time ago. In February 2015 the necropsy of the corpse of a male dead at la Fatarella (Terra Alta), revealed that it had been killed by a shot.

Fortunately, in all cases the losses were covered with new specimens, some from Iberian populations surplus since Catalonia plays a sink for the species. However, the causes of deaths remain in many parts of the land. Power companies have already corrected the most dangerous pylons in some areas, but the issue requires a much greater effort, to incorporate multivariate studies which allow the implementation of corrective measures on the basis of effectiveness and efficiency criteria. Other reasons for the non-natural death of individuals, as direct persecution, will only be avoided through educational efforts. The collaboration of serveral societies of hunters holding areas where MN is developing projects, involved and aware with the benefits and the interest of Bonelli's eagle conservation, is a hope for the future.

February 2016

Other MN News & Updates