Two harpy eagles, jungle birds who are seldom seen and said to be as rare as unicorns, were recently photographed and filmed in the wild. The photographers captured very intimate moments between a mother feeding her chick in its nest; porcupine and sloth were on the menu. Plus, there’s a white and fluffy baby bird calling its mom for food — it’s really cute.
The images of the pair of harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja) captured in the Peruvian Amazon grabbed the eyes and hearts of many. These images might be some of the last ones the world will see, though they don’t capture the serious trouble that the birds are in.
Threats to Harpy Eagles
As reported in Live Science, the harpy eagles were believed to be extinct in and around Belize. Yet, Belizean sightings in 2011 proved that the eagles still inhabited part of the Central American rain forests that they once piloted.
The harpy eagle isn’t the run-of-the-mill raptor. The eagles can weigh up to 20 pounds and grow close to 40 inches (or, the average height of a sitting human 5-year-old). They are very heavy; the Association of Zoos and Aquariums call them the “heaviest of all bird species.” Their weight sits on their sharp 5-inch talons.
Despite their impressive size and weight, the harpy eagle isn’t equipped to handle everything. Man-made trials proves especially difficult. The top of the food chain predators usually are in the most serious predicaments; we’ve already seen this in the case of the Gobi bear.
The harpy eagle is vulnerable and an endangered species. Habitat loss through clear-cutting have cut its habitat. The nests — which are usually spaced out 15 miles apart — are usually destroyed in the process. This devastates the population because of the existing low birth rates; harpy eagles are monogamous and mate for life, and one eaglet is raised around every 2 years. The eagles are sometimes the intentional shooting victims of the locals.
Shootings by humans are probably the most senseless of all of the threats. According to The Peregrine Fund, humans are pushing the raptors to the edges of the rain forests, causing them to become more vulnerable. The Fund went to Panama to find out why the shootings are taking place, and they discovered that the root is mostly fear based; they fear that the eagles would attack their families. Other people were “curious and wanted to see a bird up close.”
Shooting a bird because of curiosity is such a waste, but it might be an authentic curiosity. Instead of making a soaring statement like other predators, the harpy eagle prefers to spend its time in the canopy of undisturbed forest. In the Amazon, most of the uninterrupted forest is in the territory of indigenous peoples. Yet, as Science Daily reports, one Amazonian tribal leader insists that not even the 2014 World Cup has halted the deforestation; deforestation that is largely responsible for the destruction of the harpy eagle’s home.
While the harpy eagle used to call everything between Mexico and Argentina home, the numbers in Central America are a poor reflection of what they used to be. There’s not even a close estimate of how many of the endangered species are left in the wild (PBS cites an outdated 2009 figure between 20,000 and 50,000 birds, but we really don’t know). Please sign and share the petition to save the endangered harpy eagles that are left.
Photo Credit: Digo Souza