BirdLife: The Magazine June 2017 - Page 58

CENTRAL EUROPE causes. Modern civilisation also brings some deadly perils, such as electrocution by power lines. To make matters worse, vital feeding habitats and potential nesting sites are being severely compromised by the loss of semi-nat- ural agricultural lands, old trees and forest patches. In the face of these combined threats, only about 220 breeding pairs remaining in the entire region. £329 from £219.95 OUR WORK from £199.95 £74.99 PannonEagle LIFE seeks to change this. Since 1992, LIFE – the European Union’s fund for nature, environment and climate protection – has invested more than €3 billion in over 4,000 projects. BirdLife Partners across Europe have spearheaded many of its most successful initi- atives, breathing life back into some our most crucial habitats through long-term ecological restoration schemes, and giving the kiss of life to some our continent’s most threatened species. The goal of PannonEagle LIFE is to dramatically reduce instances of human-caused mortality. Trained dog units, specialised in poisoning cases, will investigate eagle deaths, with participating NGOs working closely with park rangers and police. Similarly, better cooperation with game- keepers and farmers will not only help improve the habitats of both the eagles and their prey, but will also help to dispel the persistent mis- conceptions driving predator persecution. Sat- ellite transmitters, fixed on individual birds, will help conservationists identify the most signif- icant conflict zones. Injured birds that survive persecution incidents will be rescued and reha- bilitated back into the wild. Nest guarding measures will also play a crucial role in the project. The Eastern Imperial Eagle is a discerning property developer: it prefers to build its nest on the top of a large tree on southern JUNE 2017 • BIRDLIFE An artificial nest constructed by Hungarian Partner, MME. Photo Bereczky Attila 0 A rehabilitated eagle being released back into the wild. Photo Horvát Márton 7 ANTI-POISON DOG UNITS, SATELLITE TAGGING AND ARTIFICIAL NESTS WILL HELP THE GLORIOUS AQUILA HELIACA facing slopes and close to good foraging sites. Nests are always positioned to have an optimal view, unobstructed by other trees, so potential disturbances can be observed from great dis- tances. In undisturbed areas, the bird will use the same nest for dozens of years, “renovating” it annually with grass and feather. Protecting exist- ing nests and establishing artificial nests will help ensure successful breeding. It is expected that these measures will bring down the annual mortality rate to less than 12% and increase the number of breeding pairs to over 250 by 2021. The outlook is very positive: PannonEagle LIFE is building directly on the great successes of a similar project to protect the Eastern Imperial Eagle in Hungary, Helicon LIFE. This earlier project, successfully developed several actions that will now be implemented across the wider Pannonian region: detective dog units; satellite tagging; and artificial nest building. Thanks to these efforts, the number of poisoned individuals in Hungary decreased from 16 individuals in 2012 to zero in 2016, and the number of known eagle nests increased from 151 to 190 over the same period. These projects are hugely inspiring. On top of the concrete conservation achievements, it is encouraging to see positive media exposure raising public awareness and shaping percep- tions of the plight of this enigmatic predator. In Roman times, if the eagle standard was lost on the battlefield, it was considered to be an ominous occurrence; the military often went to great lengths to protect their Aquila, famously searching for lost standards for decades after great battles. How many more living eagles must we lose, before their loss is felt as gravely? The time has come to raise the eagle standard and battle on to save nature. 59