NEWS / 9 OCTOBER 2017, 10:04PM / STAFF WRITER
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 sightings have dropped by as much as 60% since the late 1980s, in stark contrast to human population growth across their shared natural habitat, the study published this week in the scientific journal Bird Conservation International found.
Although the exact reasons for the decline remains unclear, researchers say their findings point to an urgent need to better understand the threats to the bird.
The study also highlighted a decline in Martial eagle sightings within protected areas, including the Kruger National Park and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park.
However, declining numbers of the species in protected areas were not as severe as elsewhere, suggesting that these areas could act to limit the factors leading to the sharp decline.
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.