Worldwide Raptor Conservation

As the world is changing with man putting a major mark on the landscape and living almost everywhere, many species of raptor are under threat. Species that are able to adapt to the changes have a major advantage, unlike those that have evolved to exploit a specific habitat- mainly the tropical rainforests.

There are many species of raptor through the world that are threatened with extinction. In the UK organisations like RSPB, English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage work to conserve raptors. See British Raptors and Conservation. Throughout the world the Peregrine Fund is one of the main organisations for raptor conservation- but generally local organisations work to restore habitats and also release birds into the wild. The Peregrine Fund started captive breeding Peregrine Falcons for release into the wild following their decline due to DDT in the US. Their work and knowledge has now been extended to species throughout the world but their focus is on the Americas and Madagascar.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) classifies species of animal and bird according to certain criteria. A species can be classified in the order as: Extinct; Extinct in the Wild; Critically Endangered; Endangered; Vulnerable; Lower Risk-Conservation Dependent; Near Threatened; Data Deficient; of Least Concern if common in the wild.

Once the most endangered bird in world, the Mauritius Kestrel (Falco punctatus) has successfully been brought back from extinction. The island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean is most well known for the Dodo, but most of its other native birds are in danger of becoming extinct. In 1977 the were only 4 known Mauritius Kestrels in the wild, but through the efforts of Carl Jones (Jersey Zoo), Mauritius Wildlife Foundation and the Peregrine Fund, the species has been saved. In 2006 the population was estimated to be 1,250 individuals. The reasons for their decline were mostly DDT, but also habitat destruction and predation from introduced mammalian predators.

Many species of Eagle throughout the world are considered endangered. Being large birds, they have large home ranges and therefore there are less of them, but many are threatened with habitat destruction and persecution by man.
One Eagle classified as Endangered is the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpija) from the rainforests of Central and Southern America. The Peregrine Fund is working in Central America (especially Panama and Belize) to restore this species and build awareness in the local communities where the birds live wild. Education of local communities is extremely important to increase the chance of survival.

Wild Harpy Eagle (harpia harpija)

Captive breeding can be used as vital tool to restore populations of raptors, but generally it should be considered a last resort. Setting up breeding facilities is expensive and generally large numbers of chicks need to be produced each year to make a release worthwhile. Also it is usually only worth breeding in the country or nearby country to where the intended release will take place. It would be extremely stressful for birds to transport them long distances and they should be released as young as possible in to the wild so they gain experience whilst still being fed at a release site. An adult bird would usually disperse quickly from a release site. If possible it is generally more cost effective to take some of the chicks from a clutch from one area and then move them to release in another- see Red Kite in British Raptors and Conservation

Orange-breasted Falcon

The Orange-breasted Falcon is rare throughout its range in Central and Southern America and the Peregrine Fund has recently started working to identify the reasons for this decline. Also along with this releases have been started for two reasons: to increase the population in areas that were known to be populated and to develop the release techniques for this species should it decline further. The Managing Director of The Falconry Centre, Andy Plant, worked on the first ever release of this species into the wild.

Some species of Vulture in India and Pakistan have declined in recent years. Many organisations worked to find the cause of the dramatic decline. The cause has now been identified and the chemical responsible has now been banned. It will take many years for these species to recover.