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Harpy Eagle reintroduction in Belize

Update 10 on the Harpy Eagle Restoration Program.

October 2007

From: Sharon Matola, Belize Coordinator

On Thursday, 25 October, a pair of captive-bred Harpy Eagles arrived to Belize from their birthplace: The Peregrine Fund's Neotropical Raptor Center, Panama.

Once they cleared Customs, the pair were provided a military escort by Major Ray Shepherd, the Commanding Officer of the Belize Defence Force (BDF)Airwing.

Ray Shepherd Ray Shepherd

The Rio Bravo-bound Harpy Eagles were securely placed in the hold of the BDF Defender Aircraft, and twenty five minutes later, Major Shepherd smoothly landed the raptor pair onto the Blue Creek airstrip.

Their, the eagles along with their support team, Major Ray Shepherd, Angel Muela, Marta Curti, Aldo Ortiz (The Peregrine Fund), Humberto Wohlers and Sharon Matola (The Belize Zoo) were driven to Rio Bravo.

Once there, the "raptor crew" then walked the Harpies to a safe and sound release site. Further escort assistance came from Programme for Belize (PfB) staff, who also accompanied the group to the release sites.

The male was first released. He quickly flew high to a branch and then after a few moments, flew off deeper into the forest.

Harpy Eagle

Major Shepherd released the female eagle - however, she decided to explore the forest floor before flying higher to a suitable branch (Harpy Eagles will spend time on the ground - "Panama", the male Harpy Eagle on exhibit at The Belize Zoo, also enjoys "ground time").

Both Harpy Eagles have satellite transmitters, PTTs, and will be tracked continually by The Peregrine Fund.

After their successful exit into the forests of northwestern Belize (Rio Bravo), Peregrine Fund biologists Chris Hatten and Ryan Phillips, along with Sharon Matola, followed up on their movements with ground telemmetry.

At this writing, both birds are doing fine. Their release brings the number of Harpy Eagles from captivity-to-life-in-the Selva Maya- to thirteen!!

The Belize Zoo is continuing an outreach Envrionmental Education program about the Harpy Eagle, and hopes that, in the future, this valuable information can also be taken into the neighboring countries of the Selva Maya - Mexico and Guatemala

Tracking the Harpy Eagles over the course of more than three years has shown that their movements are not confined to the forests of Belize. Forests within Guatemala and Mexico play a key role in their ecology..

Field studies on the released birds have shown preferred prey to include:

Coatimundi
Kinkajou
Anteater

However, the eagles have also preyed upon grey fox, porcupine and even white tail deer.

The Belize Harpy Eagle Restoration Program, BHERP, extends a huge thanks to Maj. Ray Shepherd and his support crew at the BDF Airwing. Flying the eagles, after their initial arrival to Belize, provided them an "easy entry" into their new Harpy home. Thanks goes to personnel and all staff at La Milpa Field Station, and to all at The Peregrine Fund involved in this important conservation work.
Any questions/comments, please feel welcome to contact BHERP Coordinator, Sharon Matola, matola@belizezoo.org

Back to main Harpy Eagle introduction page

Update 2 of October 2003

Update 3 of January 2004

Update 4 of July 2004

Update 5 of December 2004

Update 7 of December 2005

Update 9 of June 2007

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Last modified: November 6, 2007