Vets still hopeful of returning rare eagle to the wild - as a second bird is injured in the Sudan
It is uncertain whether the lesser spotted eagle that was illegally shot down in Malta in September will ever recover sufficiently to return to the wild. If not, it will have to remain in captivity and be used for breeding.
The extremely rare bird was initially cared for by Max Farrugia at the International Animal Rescue bird hospital in Malta before being flown to Germany for treatment. It has undergone a number of operations - the last one a week ago to have some bone splinters removed.
Dr Kirsten Müller who is in charge of the eagle’s medical treatment said it was still too soon to tell whether it would ever be released back into the wild.
At the moment the bird is still unable to clutch with the talons on its left foot. However it has improved considerably in the past two months. While it was at the IAR hospital in Malta it had to be hand fed and could only stand on one leg for short periods. Now the eagle is feeding on its own and stands on both legs with the help of external splints.
So far the injured bird has undergone three operations. During the first operation two of the six illegal-sized lead pellets were removed and also some bone splinters. Dr Müller, who operated on the bird, said the two fractures in one of its legs were probably caused by the lead pellets and also by falling from such a great height after it was shot out of the sky.
Axel Hirschfeld, a member of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) from Germany who drove the bird to Berlin said that a second lesser spotted eagle had been spotted injured somewhere in Sudan about a 100 kilometres from the capital city. His organisation is now trying to coordinate the return of the second injured bird which had been fitted with a satellite transmitter. It is currently in the hands of the wildlife police in Sudan. It appears that this bird was hit by a car while flying low towards one of the marsh lands in the area. The German vets are concerned that it may not be getting suitable treatment for its injuries. The German Embassy in Sudan is trying to negotiate the return of the bird back so that it too can be sent to Germany for surgery.
The German group will use the same transport box in which the first eagle - subsequently named Sigmar after Sigmar Gabriel, the German Environment Minister - was transported from Malta. The box has been built according to IATA specifications.
Both birds are part of the €1 million EU life project in the state of Brandenburg. This involves removing the second chick from the eagle’s nest and rearing it for a few weeks to prevent it from being killed by its older sibling. When the birds are a little older and larger, the phenomenon of sibling killing no longer takes place.
Alan Knight, CEO of International Animal Rescue, said: "Sigmar’s story highlights the terrible indiscriminate shooting of birds in Malta and the urgent need for the EU to clamp down on it if some of our most endangered species are to be saved from extinction."
German lesser spotted eagles usually fly east towards the Bosphorus and then south into Africa. Some also fly south directly, over Italy and Malta and into Africa through Libya. It is a very rare species in the central Mediterranean and in Malta there have only been recorded sightings on a few occasions.