Crowned eagle: Rare bird shot in the head with air rifle

2013-01-10 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG’S rare crowned eagle population has suffered a major blow after a female was shot dead in Cleland, leaving the city with just three pairs of the birds.

Mark Enslin, an honorary officer at the Ezemvelo Wildlife Crime Investigations unit, said the eagle, which nested near the Botanical Gardens, was shot in the head. An air rifle round was removed from the bird’s skull.

“It’s a beautiful bird. It’s very sad,” said Enslin.

It is illegal to kill or capture any wild bird without a permit, he said, adding that their eggs were also not to be removed from or disturbed in a nest. Perpetrators face up to six months’ imprisonment.

Police are hoping that members of the public will come forward to identify the culprit.

The population of crowned eagles is declining in Africa, according to Shane McPherson, an MSc student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

McPherson runs the Crowned Eagle research programme.

The dead 15-month-old bird was ringed at its nest site and was part of his research.

He said there are now only three pairs of these eagles left in the Pietermaritzburg and Hilton area, and 25 in total when areas in Durban and the South Coast are included.

Crowned eagles are particularly large and very powerful, said McPherson.

McPherson said the birds usually breed slowly and live long lives. If they are killed before they reproduce, they may vanish from the city.

Janine Naicker, of Cleland, said she was busy packing her car when the bird landed on its back just metres from where she was standing. “I first heard a click sound and the next moment I just heard a massive sound of something falling through the branches,” said Naicker, who then used a towel to wrap the bird.

“It was hardly moving when I picked her up. I held her because I didn’t want her to be alone when she died. I held her until her eyes were closed.”

•Anyone with information on the shooter should call Mark Enslin at 082 373 2396.

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