Environment Farmers and the public help to look out for Karoo’s vulnerable birds

Farmers and the public help to look out for Karoo’s vulnerable birds

Martial eagles are facing real threats (Image: Afrika Freak)

Farmers in the Eastern Cape Karoo have been asked to keep a special eye out for martial eagles, secretary birds and vultures, with several new projects under way to help protect these species which are viewed as being of special concern in the region.

The species are classified as either vulnerable or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and could vanish from the Karoo altogether unless circumstances threatening their survival and reproduction get better, HeraldLIVE reports.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust has a birds of prey programme which is studying how the breeding and movements of martial eagles are affected by power lines and other electrical infrastructure in the Karoo.

Then there is the Birdlife SA secretary bird project, which is also in need of input from farmers to report any sightings of active secretary bird nests with chicks in their area.

The two projects are facilitated by the Mountain Zebra Camdeboo Protected Environments’ (MZCPE) species of special concern programme, which is overseen by environmental ecologist Maryke Stern.

“So far we’ve received sightings of the martial eagles as well as nests of secretary birds, but none with eggs or fledglings.”

Environmental ecologist Maryke Stern

Also under way is a programme to create a “safe zone” for endangered vultures in the Karoo.

Farmers in the MZCPE, and  private game farms and  nature reserves, are asked to keep an eye out for species of special concern – the so-called “red data” species.

Interested groups such as bird and conservation clubs may also join in.

Dr Gareth Tate, the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s birds of prey programme manager, says many martial eagles breed on man-made structures, especially electrical infrastructure.

“We have an urgent need to better understand the current status of this population, as well as the threats they may face,” Tate says. 

He asks that sightings of injured or dead martial eagles in the Karoo also be reported immediately.

The trust monitors nests along power lines and follows the movements of these birds by using GPS tracking technology and coloured identification rings.

Similar methods are being implemented for secretary birds.

Farmers and travellers in the Eastern Cape Karoo region are asked to report any sightings of secretary bird nests, martial eagles with colour rings or any breeding activity (nests and/or chicks). This can be reported to Maryke Stern via WhatsApp/Email – 083-336-3066 or maryke.stern@sanparks.org

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