Jumbo threat to martial eagles (South Africa)



Date Published

Researchers who attached GPS trackers to eight martial eagles in the
Kruger National Park said the birds’ preferred well-treed habitats
were under threat.

“Tree cover [in Kruger] has undergone substantial change over the last
half century, with some areas reducing in woody cover by up to 64%,”
said Rowen van Eeden of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African
Ornithology at UCT.

This was due to a combination of a rising elephant population and
fires, but “tree fall rates in areas accessible to elephants may be up
to six times higher”.

A previous study found that the decline of Kruger’s martial eagle
population was highest in areas with the big elephant populations.

Writing in the journal PLOSone, Van Eeden said his team had tracked
two martial eagles that abandoned their territories, which may have
been due to “shortages of prey, mate loss, low breeding success or
limited appropriate breeding habitat”.

Three of the eight eagles tracked over three years died — two in
hunters’ traps in Mozambique and one due to suspected electrocution in

Van Eeden said threats to the birds — the largest eagle species in
Africa — included persecution, habitat transformation, electrocution
and drowning in farm reservoirs.

There were an estimated 800 mature birds left in South Africa, Lesotho
and Swaziland.