Conservation of Bonelli's Eagle in Italy
CABS support Italian ornithologists‘ nest monitoring programme on Sicily
Sicily is home to the last Italian population of Bonelli's Eagle, the last Italian pairs of Egyptian Vultures and the largest European population of the Lanner Falcon ssp. feldeggii, highly localized in the rest of its range. The populations of these species have shrunk dramatically over the past few decades; the European population of the Egyptian Vulture is on the verge of extinction. Only 22 pairs of Bonelli’s eagle are breeding this year on Sicily.
The reason for the decline of these populations is, in addition to destruction of habitat and illegal hunting, the theft of eggs and chicks. Unscrupulous wildlife traders organise nest robberies in order to sell the cherished birds to falconers, bird collectors and other ‘bird lovers’ for large sums of money. In the past few years a large network of smugglers has been established to ‘export’ the rare bird species to the rest of Europe and eventually also to the Middle East.
In order to combat this worrying situation the Coordinamento Tutela Rapaci Sicilia task force was founded by Italian ornithologists and conservation organisations in 2012. The mission statement is to coordinate the monitoring of all nests of endangered species on Sicily threatened by the activities of the nest robbers. As the ‘most profitable’ bird, Bonelli’s eagle is high on the list of the conservationists and in future all nests of the species are to be monitored. The Committee Against Bird Slaughter has committed itself to financial aid for the project as well as the coordination of volunteers from various European countries. The travel costs of the non-Italian participants were supported by a generous grant from the Humane Society International (UK)
The first nest-protection season ended successfully in July 2012. All 22 Bonelli’s Eagle nests on Sicily were undisturbed. In summer 32 chicks fledged - more than for many years. The chicks in the ‘CABS’ nest left the eyrie on 16 July. Some 75 bird and nature lovers took part in the operation.
More news on the 2013 operation will follow at the end of the breeding season.