According to the data we received from Köves’s transmitter, the signals have been coming from the same location – the town of Mubende in Uganda since 4.11.2011. The last signal from Köves came on 17.11.2011. The fact that the signals have been coming from the same location has made us wonder if the bird is still alive or it was captured, or lost its transmitter.
Later on we got more data about Köves from Achilles Byaruhanga of Uganda Wildlife Authority through Moldován István and Keith Betton, manager of the “African Bird Club” Association. Here’s what Mr. Byaruhanga told us about Köves: “When the security personnel acknowledged the presence of the transmitter-equipped bird, they took it to the police station (arrested it) until they would get more data about it. We only collaborated with our colleagues from the Uganda Wildlife Authority to recover the bird’s body (for which we had to pay bail!) We were told that the bird had fed itself on a poisoned goat and had died somewhere near Mubende wherefrom it had been taken to the police station. Briefly, we took the bird, registered the information from its rings (mounted on its feet) and kept it in our University Museum together with the transmitter. If the transmitter is still operational, you will see this from the change in its position and if not, than it is possible that it was deteriorated while in police custody. “ On a later date we received further proof of the fact that Köves was no longer alive, i.e. photos of the dead bird with the satellite transmitter on its back and the identification rings on its feet, sent by Mr. Roger Skeen from Birdlife Uganda. Now we are wondering how many bird victims has Africa taken. If we think of all the transmitter-equipped eagles monitored by the LIFE project during their migration to Africa, during the winter period spent on this continent and then on their way back home, the numbers are the following:
- In the two project years we mounted satellite transmitters on 19 Lesser Spotted Eagles: 6 in 2010 and 13 in 2011;
- Of the 6 eagles equipped with transmitters in 2010, two died (Adél in the Sinai Peninsula and Jakab in Ethiopia), two got rid of their transmitters (Cingár and Arthur), one had its transmitter and one identification ring removed (Béni 1) and the only one still sending information is Benjamin, the adult male eagle. Two of the transmitters, those of Cingár and Arthur were recovered and mounted back on two other birds in 2011.
- Of the 13 eagles equipped with transmitters in 2011, we have verified information that two of them are no longer alive (Lisa was killed in Zambia and Köves died in Uganda) and the transmitters of two other birds have stopped sending information since they got to Africa and we know nothing about their whereabouts (Béni 2 and Katona); the other 9 birds are alive and sending daily information from their wintering territories in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia etc.
We believe that the surprises related to the Lesser Spotted Eagles equipped with satellite transmitters will not end here. If we were to extrapolate the situation of the 19 eagles which we monitor in our project to the approximately 40,000 individuals of this species estimated to be left in the world, we could draw the conclusion that the species is extremely threatened.