Sharon Matola, Belize Coordinator
The BHERP is continuing to experience success as it grows
and develops. As 2005 closes, the program, now over two
years in place, is looking forward to continued positive
A brief summary follows, in order to recall
the last two years, and how these raptor events led to the
present status of the BHERP.
1. In 2002, 17 Harpy Eagle chicks successfully hatched
at the Neotropical Raptor Center, Panama, managed by The
2. Many of these birds were released in Panama, and this
began the first captive breeding and successful release
of large forest eagles.
3. Continued successful captive breeding in Panama led to
the replication of this conservation effort in Belize. In
March 2003 we saw the first of two pairs of captive bred
Harpy Eagles arrive to Belize for release.
4. Since those first eagles were set free in Belize, a total
of 10 birds have been released here. Eight have survived.
5. The current strategy for the BHERP is to first release
the eaglets in protected areas of Panama. Once the birds
are confirmed to be hunting, they are captured, brought
to Belize and released into the forests of the Rio Bravo
Conservation Management Area, RBCMA. This is a 100,000 ha
tract of protected forest managed by Programme for Belize.
It is connected to part of the Selva Maya, a forest which
stretches into Guatemala and Mexico, encompassing over 22,000
km2 of tropical forest habitat.
6. The eagles are monitored by conventional VHF radio-telemetry
and also with the help of satellite transmitters (PTTs)
so that their movements are tracked as regularly and as
efficiently as possible.
The information being obtained has provided, for the first
time ever, important data about the dispersal behavior of
sub-adult Harpy Eagles. This assists the future releases
of additional Harpy Eagles in Belize, and also provides
vital clues for other programs involving the release and
management of large forest eagles.
Further research projects have evolved as a result of the
success of the BHERP. The last part of 2005 has seen the
beginning of a foraging and dispersion ecology study in
the RBCMA. Basically, several male and female Harpy Eagles
will be monitored closely for one year on a daily basis.
Hunting events, habitat use, movements and other relevant
data are documented. The data obtained will show how the
foraging and ecological regimes of the Belize released Harpy
Eagles compare to those released in Panama.
STATUS OF THE HARPY EAGLES OF THE BHERP
The following Harpy Eagles were soft-released in Belize
in 2003. No Harpies have been soft-released in Belize since.
They are now soft-released in Panama, and when confirmed
to be hunting independently, are then brought to the RBCMA.
||2 Oct 02
||20 Mar 03
||12 Apr 03
||11 Oct 02
||20 Mar 03
||12 Apr 03
||19 Dec 02
||27 May 03
||17 Jun 03
||12 Dec 02
||27 May 03
||17 Jun 03
The Harpy Eagles soft-released in Panama and then brought
to Belize include six birds who are monitored and are moving
substantial distances throughout the forest landscape. One
Harpy Eagle, a male, has been tracked and known to be within
the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Laguna del Tigre, over 160 km
west of his initial release site.
A female has been tracked and located in the forests of
southern Mexico. The remaining Harpy Eagles are utilizing
the forests of Belize.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE/BHERP RELEASES
At this time, facilities are being constructed in Soberania
National Park, Panama, to accommodate the release of more
captive-bred Harpy Eagles. As these birds become independent
in Panama, they will continue to be hard-released in Belize.
To better understand the ecological requirements of the
released Harpy Eagles, a sample of about ten birds will
be followed on a regular basis in Belize in order to document
their prey preferences, hunting frequency, dispersion patterns,
seasonal differences in prey selection and other aspects
of their natural history.
This study is the first of its kind in Belize and will
initially be undertaken from November 2005 into late 2006.
Follow up studies will be implemented, if appropriate to
the BHERP objectives.
PREY ITEMS DOCUMENTED
To date, the following has been documented as prey taken
by the released Harpy Eagles:
Kinkajou Potos flavus
Coatimundi Nasua narica
Common opossum Didelphis marsupialis
Grey fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Spider monkey Ateles geoffroyi
Porcupine Coendou mexicanus
Anteater Tamandua mexicana
SUPPORT NOTED FOR THE BHERP
This program continues to receive flying support from the
Belize Defence Force (BDF). Overflights have resulted in
our being able to keep better track of a female known to
be in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, western Belize.
Overflights will be arranged in 2006 with Lighthawk and
with Ecoflights. The BHERP has worked with both of these
conservation organizations in the past.
EDUCATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS
The San Vicente School in Orange Walk District, and near
the RBCMA, has visited The Belize Zoo, specifically to see
“Panama”, the resident zoo Harpy Eagle. The
students and teachers continue to follow the activities
of the BHERP, and TBZ anticipates working closer with the
San Vicente School, and the surrounding community, as the
“Panama” the Harpy Eagle – Birthday
The resident Belize Zoo Harpy Eagle turned three years
old, October 2005. The nearby community pre-school children
came to the zoo to celebrate his birthday. They sang his
song, “Panama the Harpy Eagle”, and answered
Harpy questions for the visiting press. Both of the nation’s
television stations covered this event, they made thorough
mention, too, about the natural history of the Harpy Eagle,
and the efforts being made to restore them back into their
former Belizean range.
Two billboards have been developed and established –
one, on the western highway nearby TBZ, the next on the
northern highway, approximately 30 miles north of Belize
City. A Harpy Eagle is on one side of the billboard, a Jaguar
on the opposite side. The message reads: PROTECT THE PREDATORS.
THEY BALANCE NATURE.
A new poster, again, depicting both the Harpy Eagle and
the Jaguar with the “PROETECT THE PREDATORS THEY BALANCE
NATURE” message, has been produced and is being distributed
through TBZ Outreach Education programs.
There have been seventy-eight radio programs about the
Harpy Eagle and birds-of-prey written and produced by Belize
Coordinator, Sharon Matola. These programs are aired daily
on FM-2000, a popular Belizean radio station.
A Visit from Wildlife Artist, John A. Ruthven
In mid-November, internationally-acclaimed wildlife artist,
John A. Ruthven visited the BHERP. Mr. Ruthven has painted
the four largest eagles in the world, including the Harpy
Eagle. The one and only print made from this painting, was
given to The Belize Zoo. This was done as a gesture aimed
at drawing attention to the work TBZ is doing on behalf
of restoring the Harpy Eagle back into its former Belizean
Besides presenting and unveiling this print during an evening
ceremony at the zoo, Mr. Ruthven, along with a group of
avid Harpy Eagle fans, witnessed the release of the tenth
Harpy Eagle into the RBCMA. This bird, a female, is monitored
daily and reports state that she is hunting independently
and moving within the RBCMA. After the release, the group
was flown over the forest by the BDF. This provided a “bird’s
eye view” of Harpy Eagle habitat in northwestern Belize.
Besides being featured in the Fall/Winter 2005 Newsletter
of The Peregrine Fund, the program was given mention in
Destination Belize 2006, the official Visitor Guide of the
Belize Tourism Industry Association, BTIA. The BHERP will
also be highlighted in the January issue of ORYX, an international
BHERP extends gratitude to the following:
The Peregrine Fund-USA and Panama
The Belize Defence Force, BDF
The Belize Zoo Education Department
The Belize Zoo Animal Management Department
Programme for Belize, including all officials and all personnel
at Rio Bravo Conservation Management area (RBCMA)
The Peregrine Fund’s Harpy Eagle monitoring team
Conservation Division/Ministry of Natural Resources, Government
The Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA)
The Nature Conservancy/Ohio Chapter/International Division
John A. Ruthven, Wildlife artist
Richard and Carol Foster, Cinematographers
Great Belize Productions, Channel 5
Tropic Vision, Channel 7
La Democracia Pre-School/Mrs. Kamil MacFadzean, teacher
The attached photos illustrate the BHERP. Please feel welcome
to contact me at email@example.com, if there are any
questions or comments. Thank you for your interest in the
BHERP. And please feel welcome to distribute this document.
Sharon Matola, Belize Coordinator
Belize Harpy Eagle Restoration Program
Back to main Harpy Eagle introduction
Update 2 of October 2003
Update 3 of January 2004
Update 4 of July 2004
Update 5 of December 2004