Endangered Species Friday: Aquila nipalensis
This Fridays (ESP) – Endangered Species Post is dedicated to the A. nipalensis, commonly known as the Steppe Eagle, identified back in 1833. Image credit: Kartik Patel
The Steppe Eagle was formally identified by Dr Brian Houghton Hodgson (1 February 1800 or more likely 1801 – 23 May 1894) was a pioneer naturalist and ethnologist working in India and Nepal where he was a British Resident. He described numerous species of birds and mammals from the Himalayas, and several birds were named after him by others such as Edward Blyth.
Dr Brian H. Hodgson was a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism and wrote extensively on a range of topics relating to linguistics and religion. He was an opponent of the British proposal to introduce English as the official medium of instruction in Indian schools. Had Dr H. Hodgson not introduced English into the many Indian schools, its very likely very few Indian citizens would today know how to speak the English language.
A. nipalensis is listed as (endangered), although its likely the predatory eagle will soon be relisted as (critically endangered), should conservation efforts not improve the current status of this remarkable bird of prey, however this particular bird is somewhat of a mystery.
The major reason why this species is listed as (endangered) which was only recently, is primarily due to wind farming of which birds are reported to fly directly into large structural turbines, which unfortunately, results in their death, or serious injury. Birds that are rescued suffering serious trauma are rarely released back into the wild, or make a full recovery.
From 1988 to 2000 the species was listed as (lower risk). Then from 2003 to 2014 the species remained at (least concern). A risk assessment conducted last year (2015), concluded that the species qualified for (endangered status). Which is somewhat concerning. To date we know the species has already been pushed into regional extinction in the countries identified as; Moldova and Romania. Today the species still remains endemic within the following countries;
Afghanistan; Albania; Armenia; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Botswana; Bulgaria; China; Congo; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Georgia; Greece; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Malawi; Malaysia; Mongolia; Myanmar; Namibia; Nepal; Oman; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Qatar; Russian Federation; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam; Yemen; Zambia and finally Zimbabwe.
Aquila nipalensis is also a vagrant visitor to most of Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Southern and Eastern Africa, ranging from Spain; Norway; France; Germany; Finland, Korea; Somalia; Slovakia Etc. Continued rate of decline is (unknown), which is concerning bird lovers and conservationists. Data recorded from the last assessment back in (2015), stated that populations are declining very rapidly.
There seems to have been some perplexing information from the last assessment (before 2015’s) relating to population trend conducted we believe in (2010 or 2012). However the (2015) assessment has confirmed that the current population trend may stand at some: 100,000-499,999 (which is an estimate band or population band). Populations are not known to be (seriously fragmented). Surveys conducted back in (2001) placed the number of pairs at ‘80,000 pairs or 160,000 mature individuals’. Unfortunately the (European population) is estimated to be standing at 800-1,200 pairs in total.
Bird-Life International (2015) estimated that Europe holds the lowest population density standing at some 9%. So a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 17,800-26,700 mature individuals. A further assessment back in (2001) relating to the European trend stated “160,000 mature individuals was much lower than previously believed”. So as one can see ‘population uncertainty’ is the second likely reason why the species has been re-listed as (endangered). Not forgetting being rather confusing at times too.
Latest Population Assessment Estimate
The latest, and most current population assessment estimate states numbers range (in total) at 31,372 (26,014-36,731) which equates to 62,744 (52,028-73,462) mature individuals or 94,116 (78,042-110,193) individuals. The population is placed in the band 100,000 to 499,999 mature individuals. It must be noted that 100,000 to 499,999 is not the true population count, but more the ‘band that the species currently stands at/qualifies for’.
Habitat destruction, agriculture, conversion of Steppe Eagle land for farming, persecutions, but most worrying is wind-farming that is “seriously threatening the species as we know it today”. Collisions with wind-turbines is quite a serious concern as the Steppe Eagle is not exactly a small bird, and when hunting, especially within converted land that hosts wind farms, Steppe Eagles are either killed or seriously injured to the point that they can never be rehabilitated back to the wild. Night collisions are reported more than day collisions.
Image: White tailed Eagle killed after colliding with a wind farm in the background.
The image above depicts a White Tailed Eagle that was located dead after a suspected collision with a wind turbine. As one can clearly see these Eagles are not small, nor are wind turbines. Unfortunately birds come off the worst as we humans crave more and more greener energy. The only real reasonable solution here would be to now lobby governments and industries to build wind farms away from ‘all bird habitat’, or at sea. Unfortunately, again this is easier said than done. While at sea wind turbines are being blamed for whale beaching’s due to turbine vibrations, meanwhile birds are mostly, sadly dying when hitting these gigantic steel/carbon structure’s.
Steppe Eagles migrate, and are said to be closely related to the subspecies Aquila rapax. Steppe Eagles are around 25-31 inches in length, with a mean wingspan of 5.1-7.1 feet. Females weigh 5-10 lbs, while males weigh in at around 4.4 to 7.7 lbs. Steppe Eagles are said to breed mainly from Romania of which the species is currently (regionally extinct) within the country. Further evaluation of breeding behavior states the species breeds in Central Asia, Mongolia to Africa, with further breeding occurring within Eastern Europe. Females lay on average 1-3 eggs within a clutch.
Image: Credited: Peter Romanow (Germany).
Listed on the (Convention of International trade in Endangered Species wild flora and fauna – Cites), Cites Appendix II. Threats are listed below for your information.
The species has declined in the west of its breeding range, including extirpation from Romania, Moldova and Ukraine, as a result of the conversion of steppes to agricultural land combined with direct persecution. It is also adversely affected by power lines and is very highly vulnerable to the impacts of potential wind energy developments. It was recently found to be the raptor most frequently electrocuted by power lines in a study in western Kazakhstan. When one views the sheer size of these massive birds of prey, one can clearly envisage just how easy they can fall prey to hitting these massive carbon wind structures, and power lines,
Young eagles are taken out of the nest in order to sell them to western European countries. A decline in the number of birds and a reduction in the proportion of juveniles migrating over Eilat, Israel began immediately after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, leading Yosef and Fornadari (2004) to suggest that the species may have been affected by radioactive contamination. This species is vulnerable to the veterinary drug Diclofenac too. Read more here on Chernobyl.
CONCERNING DATA ON CHERNOBYL AND LOW BIRD SPERM RATE: https://www.audubon.org/news/chernobyls-radiation-seems-be-robbing-birds-their-sperm
Wind Farming | Eagles
Wind energy is the fastest growing source of power worldwide according to the World Bank. China plans a 60% increase in the next three years and the US a six-fold jump by 2030. The EU aims to produce 20% of its energy through renewables by 2020 – much of this is from wind. Will this huge expansion of wind farms have a serious impact on bird life? It looks likely, especially where birds habitat is being encroached onto by such developments.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) estimates that 440,000 birds are killed in collisions with wind turbines each year; without stronger regulation, says the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the annual toll will exceed one million by 2030. To address this issue, the U.S. Department of the Interior has released voluntary guidelines to help developers minimize the impact of wind energy projects on bird habitat and migration. Developed over five years with an advisory committee that included government agencies, the wind energy industry, and some conservation organizations, the guidelines are intended to ensure compliance with federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act—although the rules allowing them to do so are controversial.
Image: Red Kite killed found dead after colliding with a wind-turbine.
There are reasons why birds are likely to be affected by wind farms. Wind developments tend to be placed in upland areas with strong wind currents that have a lot of potential to generate energy. Birds – particularly raptors like eagles or vultures – use these currents as highways – and so are likely to come into contact with the turbines. It’s not just the turbine blades that pose a risk to birds; research indicates that wind developments can disrupt migration routes. What’s more, foraging and nesting habitat can also be lost when turbines are put up.
Despite these concerns, the current body of research suggests wind farms have not significantly reduced bird populations. Several studies suggest birds have the ability to detect wind turbines in time and change their flight path early enough to avoid them. And one small study found no evidence for sustained decline in two upland bird species on a wind farm site after it had been operating for three years. Another found that wild geese are able to avoid offshore wind turbines. (Geese though fly at daytime, and are not predatory day and nighttime carnivorousness hunters).
A large peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Ecology monitored data for ten different bird species across 18 wind farm sites in the UK. It found that two of them- curlew and snipe – saw a drop in population during the construction phase, which did not recover afterwards. But the population of the other eight species were restored once the wind farms were built.
The current fate relating to the Steppe Eagle is somewhat worrying. Agriculture, persecution, young theft for trade, and wind – turbine farming is all but concerning plundering the species into further threatened status. After reading many studies dating back to 2012 regarding wind turbines, and whether they were indeed responsible for bird deaths, 2012 evidence didn’t really show much to prove that birds were affected. However after reading the ‘damning evidence relating to the Steppe Eagle’, its without a doubt that wind farms are most certainly ‘impacting on this species and others’ locally and internationally. The question is how do we deal with this problem?
We need wind to generate more greener energy thus decreasing our carbon emissions. Furthermore we also need birds of prey to control rodent, insect, and general pest control. Large birds of prey are also very useful within Anti Poaching operations, and act as the eyes and ears for both farmers and anti poachers. While there is no evidence to prove my own suspicions here, I do believe that certain bodies within government are being forced to ignore ongoing issues with wind farms and bird collisions. The excuse that birds can quickly change course is indeed factual to some degree, well, only if the bird is flying during daytime hours. Unfortunately most birds of prey also fly and hunt at night. So how is one supposed to change their course (at nighttime when unable to see the turbine in time)?
Please view the videos below for more information.
BIRD OF PREY | TURBINE COLLISIONS
Thank you for reading, please share and help create more noise about this subject before time runs out.
Dr Jose. C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.
Environmental, Botanical and Human Science
Endangered Species Friday: Bothriechis marchi
This Fridays endangered species watch post (ESP) I focus ones attention on reptilians which I rarely do speak or document about. Awareness surrounding this stunning Pit Viper needs creating rather quickly, before populations go extinct. (Image credits: Dr. Silviu Petrovan B. marchi)
Endemic to Honduras (mainland) and scientifically identified as Bothriechis marchi the specie is listed as [endangered] of which populations are declining quite extensively throughout its entire range. B. marchi was identified by two environmental scientists that I’ve listed below;
1. Dr Thomas Barbour (August 19, 1884 – January 8, 1946) whom was an American herpetologist. From 1927 until 1946, he was director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology founded in 1859 by Louis Agassiz at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr Barbour identified B. marchi back in 1929.
2. Dr Arthur Loveridge (1891-1980) whom was a British biologist and herpetologist who wrote about animals in East Africa, particularly Tanzania, and New Guinea. He gave scientific names to several gecko species in the region. Dr Loveridge identified with Dr Barbour, B. marchi back in 1929.
The species was known to be quite common throughout its entire range from the mid 1980’s right-through to the early millennium. Since last observations took place around 2000 there has been few sightings of the species due to increasing threats on the mainland.
Commonly known to the locals as the Honduran Palm Pit Viper or March’s Palm Pit Viper the species is known to occur within Northern Honduras of which extends into Eastern Guatemala. Range has been reported to be some 500m to 1,500 (m) in elevation however the species is considered rare at anything below 900 (m). There have been few reports of specimens recorded below the 900 (m) elevation in Nicaragua by Villa 1984. Furthermore a few individual specimens have also been recorded at sea level.
While there are an assortment of threats that indeed pose a risk to the species the main primary reason B. marchi qualifies for the endangered listing is due to the very small locations that the species is known to inhabit. From previews records we know the species now only exists at some five to six locations of which any-form of habitat fragmentation or destruction could/would lead to species into extinction.
Even throughout the species very small range habitat loss, collapse of prey populations, and extraction for the pet trade still occurs despite the March’s Palm Pit Viper listed as endangered and, protected. One can normally locate the species next to running streams, water courses or within closed intact rain forest. To date there are no sub-species known and one must also point out the March’s Palm Pit Viper is indeed (venomous). Diet normally consists of frogs, newts, and rodents.
Image: Honduran Palm Pit Viper. (Photographer unknown).
Listed on Cites Appendix II there remains very little conservation projects in place to actually preserve the species despite Cites stating pet trade must be [regulated]. If anything there should be no pet trade and the Government of Honduras now needs to implement tough policies and regulations to ensure species survival for future generations to come. Cites in my own opinion needs to pull their finger out and restore a little faith back into the public domain as clearly very little if any monetary income is being made from the pet trade that is helping sustain conservation projects within the species range.
One of my own major concerns here on the mainland and Honduras islands is deforestation. Many of you or may not be aware, some months back we ran a conservation project on the Honduras White Bat of which deforestation was primarily to blame for the bats decreasing populations. Unfortunately the same threat also applies to the March’s Palm Pit Viper (which I find very worrying).
Timber extraction and habitat destruction is increasing on the mainland at an alarming rate placing the March’s Palm Pit Viper in danger furthermore. This species is also threatened by extraction for the pet trade. For example the Honduras authorities have issued permits for exportation of hundreds of individuals annually. Furthermore, the crash in amphibian populations threatens this species.
I must also point out that while timber extraction is placing increasing pressure on many species of fauna and flora illegal and unregulated logging remains an ever-increasing threat to sustainable development programs. Who’s to blame for this illegal logging crisis? United States and Europe have been exposed in many environmental investigation projects, timer extraction projects also increase poverty, fuel corruption not forgetting devastating communities throughout the mainland and islands. Although some actions have been taken to decrease illegal logging threats – they still very much remain and as such will push the Honduran Palm Pit Viper into extinction should measures not be implemented to protect wildlife immediately..
Please note that while there has been some-speculation there may well be a new sub-species, Bothriechis guifarroi is not related to B marchi, although near threatened the species is still pretty remarkable.
Sadly we don’t have a video for you to view the Honduran Palm Pit Viper however I’ve included a Viper video that you may enjoy.
– Have a nice day.
Thank you for reading.
Chief Environmental Officer. (Executive Director)
Dr Jose C. Depre
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa.
Endangered Species Friday – Anas bernieri
This Friday’s endangered species article I focus on my eighteenth “Madagascan” species of wildlife since establishing International Animal Rescue Foundation’s Endangered Species Watch Post one and half years ago. I very much doubt too that this will by mine or the teams last such species of Madagascan native animal to print on nearing extinction, simply because the island is rapidly being overcome by humans, habitat destruction and poaching.
Endemic only to the Africans island of Madagascar the the A. bernieri as the species is scientifically known was primarily identified back in 1860 by Dr Karel Johan Gustav Hartlaub (8 November 1814 – 29 November 1900) was a German physician and ornithologist.
Dr Hartlaub was born in Bremen, and studied at Bonn and Berlin before graduating in medicine at Göttingen. In 1840, he began to study and collect exotic birds, which he donated to the Bremen Natural History Museum. He described some of these species for the first time. Dr Hartlaub has been described by many leading ornithologists as an expert in bird wildlife and conservation and, has been ranked as one of few such experts that has identified over hundreds species of birds globally.
Listed as (endangered) the species is commonly known as the Bernier’s Teal or just Madagascar Teal. The species is uncommonly viewed within western Madagascar of which it can be found along the western coast and, north east. Bernier’s Teal is known to breed at the Menabe and Melaky on the central west coast, and at Ankazomborona on the far north-west coast. Between July and August (1993) the species was observed at Antsalova and Morondava of which a census recorded a total of some 200-300 mature individuals. Back in 1998 a small flock was observed in Tambohorano totaling some 60-70 mature individuals.
Furthermore in 1998 a new a new breeding colony numbering some 200-300 mature individuals was recorded in Ankazomborona. Meanwhile the population noted at Baie de la Mahajamba was estimated to be between some 100-200 mature individuals. (Please note that due to lack of census counts and close monitoring these population numbers above may differ from any future or now census counts) however the Durrel Wildlife Conservation Trust is helping to preserve one of the worlds most incredibly rare birds.
The total mean population count of which could be lower than the last census undertaken back in 2007 stands at a pathetic and measly 1,200 to 1,700 mature individuals today. However due to mass deforestation, pollution, habitat fragmentation and destruction and, poaching, Etc, its quite possible populations of the A. bernieri have plummeted way below the last 2002 and 2007 census count.
The Madagascar Teal is of the Anas genus and is a dabbling duck. Huge areas of wetlands are being drained or altered for human activities such as farmland, rice paddies and prawn ponds. Their wooded habitat is also being destroyed for timber which effects their breeding. Due to the increase of humans in their area, hunting has also increased for so called sport and meat.
Listed on (Cites) Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species Wild Flora and Fauna the species is listed on Appendix II of which is threatened by a large number of mostly human threats. The species is now extremely threatened throughout its breeding range, by extensive habitat loss and disturbance. The distribution of known sites suggests that the single subpopulation is being fragmented as areas of habitat become unsuitable.
The species has limited dispersal capabilities and isolation may result in the loss of genetic diversity. Furthermore it is threatened by virtue of being highly specific to a series of habitats – which are themselves threatened – throughout its annual cycle. Conversion of shallow, muddy water-bodies to rice cultivation has been so widespread on the west coast that in the non-breeding season the species now appears to be confined to the few suitable wetlands that are too saline for rice-growing, i.e. some inland lakes and coastal areas such as mudflats.
In 2004, during a dry-season survey in Menabe, this species was only found in saline wetlands. Pressures on coastal wetlands are exacerbated by the movement of people from the High Plateau to coastal regions, which is driven by the over-exhaustion of land. Mangroves are under increasing pressure from prawn-pond construction and timber extraction, which also leads to massively increased hunting. Subsistence hunting during the nesting season and the trapping of molting birds are major threats too. It is considered a delicacy by hunters and was found in markets in Sofia in 2011.
See more here on the video above. http://harteman.nl/pages/anasbernieri
In contrast, the breeding site at Ankazomborona is not threatened by aquaculture and there is little pressure from subsistence hunters, though there is some pressure from “sport hunters”. Breeding birds may suffer disturbance from human activity, such as the collection of crabs. The species is potentially in competition for the use of suitable nest-holes with the Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos, parrots Coracopsis species and nocturnal lemurs, Lepilemur species and Cheirogaleus species, though lemurs are absent in mangroves. Breeding is from December to March. Diet consists of mainly insects.
In all its very likely that we will lose the Madagascan Teal within the wild in next to three to five years unless conservation efforts drastically and rapidly improve and, the Madagascar Ministry of Environment and Forests tackles poaching, habitat fragmentation, destruction and human interference sooner rather than later. I personally believe from my last visit to Madagascar back in 2013 its very unlikely the M. Teal or any other species listed as critically endangered will continue to thrive for years to come. Catastrophic habitat destruction on the island is threatening hundreds of over a hundred species of medium and large mammalians.
How can I help? The “Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust” are currently undertaking amazing captive breeding programs of the Madagascan Teal that is known to be one of the worlds most rarest birds. You can help by supporting the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and making a donation to their organisation that will help increase captive breeding colonies for later release back into the wild. Even if the species cannot be released back onto the island of Madagascar (should extinctions occur), reintroduction programs elsewhere will continue to keep this species alive for future generations to come. You never know the species may be coming to a home somewhere near you soon. Please donate and contact the D.W.C.T <here for further information.
Dr Jose C. Depre
Environmental and Botanical Scientist.
For further information or if you’d like to help in upcoming events this year or in the future please contact the Environmental team here today. email@example.com