The eagles are re-imported to preserve the species

From Vendée to Spain, the breeding of French eagles is involved in the reintroduction of Bonelli eagles. An endangered species whose population has declined sharply since 1980.

From AFP

For an extinct breeding species “Rarely in captivity”this is a new feat: five young Bonelli eagles, born on a Vendée breeding farm, will travel to Spain this summer to be released.

Bonelli Eagle Rescue Farm

From the outside, breeding in Saint-Denis-du-Pire is an ordinary house. You need to cross the living room and push the door to the garden to find an impressive building made of sheet metal, which is inhabited by birds of prey. Divided into ten aviaries measuring eighteen by six meters, it holds five couples who are still too old to learn to live in the wild, and five young people awaiting transfer. Since 2011, Christian Pacto, the owner of the house and responsible for breeding, has sent 77 eaglets to repopulate the Mediterranean basin. “The number of Bonelli eagles has fallen sharply since the 1980s, in part due to electric shock on high-voltage lines.”explains the breeder. “At that time there were 80 couples in France. In the early 2000s, more than 20. Thanks to reintroduction, there are now about forty.

Passion for ornithology

At the age of 72, this teacher retired, “Fell very young in a pot of ornithology”, manages the only Bonelli eagle breed in France, initiated by the French Union of Wildlife Conservation Centers (UFCS) and funded by the European Biodiversity Protection Program and the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO). Associations in the south of France, not showing interest, breeding Vendée turned to Spanish and Italian organizations, which today produce eaglets in the region of Madrid, Alava, Mallorca and Sardinia.

Flight of birds

White belly, dark wings and hooked beak, Cabestani, Eus and Lupia, three eaglets born in March, are waiting for hours to take off, perched in their cages. The trip was delayed for several weeks due to an epidemic of bird flu that interferes with any transportation of birds. “It’s annoying, because the later the predators return, the more time they need to get used to the new environment.”, worries Emmanuel Portier, one of the two guardians. In the next enclosure, two more chicks that will be on the trip, still covered with white down, lie on a wooden table covered with bark. In mid-July, trainers will install eaglets in the body of a van that will go to Spain. Equip GPS before releasing birds of prey. “It allows you to follow their travels, document their rhythm of life. And save them if they seem to be in trouble. “, says Philip Pillard, LPO project manager. The ornithologist still remembers the eagle, which, again brought to Italy a few years ago, finally decided to settle in Corsica.

Animals that are difficult to reproduce

As soon as they are laid, the breeders remove the eggs from the aviaries for re-breeding and place them in an incubator heated to 37.2 ° C. They then feed the chicks by hand, trying to hide behind a curtain so that the food is not associated with a human face. If the reintroduction program was a “great success”Christian Pacto is now worried about what he sees “the end of history”. Of its five pairs of eagles between the ages of 18 and 32, three are no longer nesting, and the other two are on the verge of extinction. “I tried to unite the male and female, who still can, but they do not want it. When mated, these birds never change satellites again. “, sighs the breeder. His Spanish mates could send him an eagle, but there is no guarantee that the female will accept him. As for asking them about an already established couple, “we should not dream”. Meanwhile, breeders will monitor the plumage from afar. Spanish healers never forget to send them photos and health reports “Babies”.

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