Mum raises chick alone as Roodekrans black eagle male 'unlikely' to return

2019-06-21 08:02
Makatsa bringing sprays to the nest.

Makatsa bringing sprays to the nest. (Chris Jones)

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The famous black eagle male who has been an institution at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens since 1998 has still not returned since going missing on June 8. And, according to Black Eagle Project Roodekrans chairperson Gerald Draper, he is unlikely to return. 

Last week News24 reported that Thulane, one half of the world-famous black eagle pair, left his mate Makatse behind and flew off without being seen again. 

At the time Draper told News24 that Thulane's "timing was unfortunate", since Makatse was left alone to care for a freshly hatched chick. 

The eagles usually take turns guarding the nest from predators and, with Thulane gone, predators could easily target the little eagle. There was also a chance that Makatse could simply abandon the chick to look for another mate. 

But on Thursday, Draper announced that the chick is doing well and that Makatse has taken on the responsibilities of single parenthood.

"Thulane has still not returned to the natal area, and we do now feel that it will be highly unlikely that he will in the future," Draper said. 

"One can only speculate what could have occurred, as he was highly experienced at the age of 25/27 years old. Photographic evidence on Wednesday (June 12) confirmed two eggs on the nest. Thursday (June 13) confirmed the presence of a chick, and Wednesday (June 19) confirmed that the second egg as well as a second eaglet were not present.

"The initial chick, however, looks healthy and very active. Makatsa has been feeding the chick since the hatching seven days ago, and has impressed all of us with her drive and tenacity.

"Prey has been brought in on a regular basis this week, and she has also been bringing in green 'sprays' to sanitise the nest.

"The efforts of the Sugarbush Ridges Coalition and Volunteer Rangers in destroying hundreds of snares in the area over the past few months has led to the habitat being more stable than it has been in many years.

Critical stage

"Consequently, there is sufficient prey around, and Makatsa will hopefully not have to venture too far in pursuit of food. As black eagle pairs will normally not leave a chick unattended on the nest before the age of five or six weeks old, we are in a critical stage right now.

"Besides the obvious threat of predation, we are also approaching a particularly cold week which will leave the chick exposed to the elements if the female is off the nest for lengthy periods," Draper said.

Earlier, Draper told News24 it was not unusual for an eagle to just take off one day. 

"Eagles have been breeding there since the 1940s. So new birds come in all the time. In 1998, the female was sitting on the nest when the male, Quatele, disappeared. Eventually she aborted the chicks and left and came back a few weeks later with a new male, which happened to be Thulane.

"Then, in 2016, the older female, Emonyeni, disappeared and Thulane came back with Makatsa.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and communicate as and when any developments unfold," said Draper. 

Read more on:    johannesburg ­  |  conservation  |  animals

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