Iberian imperial eagle: conservation efforts and projects
The animals interact with their surroundings and other members of their or different species. Therefore, the extinction of one species can indirectly cause the death of another, as well as the adverse effect: overpopulation.
That’s why it's essential to maintain an environmental equilibrium in order to protect biodiversity and guarantee its survival.
The Iberian imperial eagle is one of the most endangered animals in Spain. This bird lives in the Southeast of Spain, mostly in Doñana Natural Park.
For this, authorities are already developing plans that will work to prevent species extinction and promote reproduction.
The Catálogo Andaluz de Especies Amenazadas (Andalusian Catalogue of Endangered Species) establishes that practically 600 related species are endangered.Most of them are terrestrial vertebrates, mostly birds. However, there are plant species in danger as well.
At the moment, the Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio de la Junta de Andalucía Regional (Ministry of Environment and Territory of the Government of Andalusia) specifically monitors 147 kinds of fauna and flora, including the Iberian lynx, pinsapo (abies pinsapo) and the Iberian imperial eagle.
These conservation and rehabilitation projects are subsidized using public funds, as well as through the help of private foundations. In fact, The Santander Bank Foundation has helped to restore and preserve imperial eagle populations in Doñana.
Imperial eagle restoration projects
The Iberian imperial eagle all but disappeared 60 years agoin many regions of Andalusia. However, restoration projects have successfully reintroduced individuals to Doñana Natural Park, the Sierra Morena, and the Janda region (Cádiz).
As a bird of prey, it is of particular importance. It is considered an “umbrella species”, i.e. it shares the same habitat requirements with other species, not only birds.
For that reason, plans which work to protect the Iberian imperial eagle will have a broader and more beneficial effect on the ecosystem and the survival of other animals, and making the area more biodiverse.
The Iberian imperial eagle is endangered for the following reasons:
- Lack of food: The Iberian imperial eagle preys mostlyon rabbits. Their chances of survival are lowered because of sharp declinesin rabbit population. They are exposed to diseases such as myxomatosis, viral hemorrhagic, and pneumonia. Additionally, they fall victims to over hunting.
- Illegal toxicbaits have killed more than 40 imperial eagles in the last 8 years.
- Electric power lines are one of the most dangerous risks (collision with pylons) that eagles face, and it is one of the most commoncauses of death for the birds. Likewise, it harms many species in the dispersion phase, something whichaffects their expansion to other places.
- Few places to nest. Habitat loss makes it difficult for the birds tonest in appropriate areas, which threatens their solitary nature. As a direct consequence, the imperial eagle must travel farther, diminishingitschances toreproduce.
- Pollution. Eagles often eat animals that have been killed by gunshot. Since buckshot is oftenmade with lead, this presentsa real danger tothe health of the birds.
Where are imperial eagles found?
Iberian imperial eagles usually live in forests and hills close to marshlands and wetlands. As a consequence of their large size and robustness, they need to nest in large, tall trees. Before the nineteenth century, the eagles lived in central and northern Portugal, most parts of Spain, and in Northern Africa.
Since the twentieth century, imperial eagles’populationshave decreased at a troubling rate. Now, eagles live in the valleys of Tajo and Tietar Rivers, the Guadarrama Mountains and Gredos Mountains, the Mountains of Toledo, Extremadura, the Sierra Morena, Doñana, Janda (Cádiz), and the Baetica zone.
Following conservation efforts and restoration projects, the presence of imperial eagles has been consolidated in the Doñana Natural Park. Nine pairs with their chicks could be found in 2015 and 2016. Since then, 10 new baby eagles have been born.
The total population of Iberian imperial eagle has increased in Andalusia to 111 couples. During the last 16 years, 90 chicks have been reintroduced. Authorities have taken 3 lines of action to go about recovering the species:
- Repopulation of rabbits.
- Supplemental feeding program to guarantee reproduction.
- Moving and reintroducing the species in new areas.
Chicks are banded before being released into the wild in order to monitor the community of imperial eagles. Banding lets us observe their movements, analyze mortality rates, moulting, and changes in morphology.
Field rangers are responsible for carrying out this task. They are specialized in work where vertical climbing is necessary as nets are located in high places. Up to seven chicks are going to be banded in upcoming months.