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Understand and preserve the Harpy Eagle in the Brazilian Amazon with Argos

Oct 20, 2013

The Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja), commonly known as the “gavião-real” in the Brazilian Amazon, is the most powerful bird of prey from Americas. Initially, we could see the Harpy Eagle in Mexico, Central America and South America.
The population of the species that is sparsely distributed and generally rare throughout its extensive range has now fallen to just a very few couples in several of these regions and is assumed to be extinct in others. Overall, the Harpy Eagle is considered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as a “near threatened” species because of the population decline owing to hunting and habitat loss.
Currently its only refuge is in South America, and especially in the Amazon rain forest, the largest refuge for the maintenance of their populations.

Understanding the behavior of the species

 In 2012, Helena Aguiar-Silva began her doctoral studies with the idea of installing radio-transmitters on adult Harpies that were currently raising young: the Harpy Eagle pairs feed their offspring for almost two years. By using the ARGOS system it would be possible to learn exactly where they were and how they moved around the Amazon rain forest while hunting, eventually providing information about their living space during this period. 

The Harpy Eagles are captured in the forest in their nests and fitted with satellite transmitters coupled with altitude and velocity sensors, attached to them as a sort of back-pack.  

The results obtained with Argos tracking

According to the initial analyses, this individual, not yet an adult and not part of a pair, moves through the forest in its search for prey; it covers 6.7 km/month, uses an area of 111 km²/year and returns to certain areas in different months but without establishing a definite territory (Fig.1).

The mapping also shows that this individual stays close to the edge of the forest, which suggests that this corresponds to its hunting territory; as the sloth, its principal prey, lives in the canopy at the edge of the forest. 

In 2013 and 2014, other specimens of the same species will be fitted with ARGOS transmitters; wild breeding individuals and injured individuals which, once restored to health and rehabilitated, will be potential subjects for reintroduction into the wild. 

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