The population of Africa’s largest eagle species is in freefall in South Africa and may be edging towards extinction, according to a new UCT study. Martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) sightings have dropped by as much as 60% since the late 1980s, the study published this week in the scientific journal Bird Conservation International found. The study also highlighted a decline in Martial eagle sightings within protected areas, including the Kruger National Park and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park.
Dr Arjun Amar and PhD student Danië* Cloete from UCT’s FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology conducted the study using two Southern African Bird Atlas Project surveys carried out 20 years apart.
Their previous research showed that comparing these surveys provided an accurate way of measuring changes in the population size of this species.
Martial eagle total population figures are still relatively inexact, but their conservation status was uplisted in 2013 from Near Threatened to Vulnerable - which means they are recognised to be globally threatened. Martial eagles mainly prey on large birds and reptiles, and small and medium-sized mammals, but are strong enough to prey on small antelopes. They typically nest in high treetops. The study found significant declines in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Changes differed across the biomes, with the species faring worst in the Grassland, Savannah, Indian Ocean Coastal Belt and the Nama Karoo biomes.
Source: IOL, 9 Oct 2017