A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports has found that young harpy eagles are dying in the Amazon due to deforestation. The harpy eagle, one of the world’s largest eagles, has almost “zero” chances of surviving if Amazon deforestation continues. The study has established that harpy eagles are dying of starvation in areas where significant deforestation has occurred.

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The Amazon is the last remaining hope for the survival of harpy eagles, with almost 90% of the birds currently residing there. The study warns that the geographical range of the eagle is continuously being limited by continued deforestation.

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Professor Carlos Peres of the University of East Anglia, U.K. and co-author of the study said, “Considering that harpy eagles have the lowest life cycle of all bird species, their chances of adapting to highly deforested landscapes are nearly zero.”

The adult harpy eagle females grow to 10 kilograms, making them one of the largest raptors in the world. They are native to the tropical forests of Central America to northern Argentina. Unfortunately, due to human interference and widespread deforestation, the eagles have disappeared from large parts of their native range.

Currently, the biggest threat to the survival of the birds is deforestation. However, other factors, such as hunting, are also threatening their existence. In some countries, including Brazil, Panama and Suriname, the harpy eagle has legal protections. Unfortunately, enforcement of the laws in these regions has remained a big challenge.

The study was led by Everton Miranda of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In their study, the researchers monitored 16 nests in the Brazilian Amazon using cameras. They found that eagles in the region mainly feast on two-toed sloths, brown capuchin monkeys and grey woolly monkeys. From bone fragments observed around nesting areas, the researchers established that the eagles could not find alternative food where there was deforestation.

The most alarming observation was that in areas with 50% to 70% deforestation, at least three eagles died from starvation over the period of the study. In areas with deforestation over 70%, there were no nests to be found.


Image via cyrusbulsara