Black Eagle's 70 Year Cliff Side Home Is In Danger
Black Eagle's have been breeding in the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Johannesburg, South Africa for over 70 years on the very same cliffs, but now due to urban development may be forced to leave the area.
Black Eagles (also known as Verrauex's Eagles) often choose nesting grounds humans might consider to be quite dangerous. For them however, these massive (up to 2 metre) cliff side lairs are an important component to their very survival. They provide security, a viewpoint for hunting and a safe haven to raise their young.
In Roodekrans, at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens reports show that Black Eagles have been using a nesting area in the park's boundaries for over 70 years. Emoyeni, the current Black Eagle female has been there since the 1970’s, and may quite easily be one of the offspring of the previous eagles. Each year she and her mate, Tulane, return to the same nest embedded into the side of the cliff and once again attempt to bring a young eaglet into the world. This is important because this particular type of eagle, one of Africa's largest, may soon become a threatened species; therefore Emoyeni's yearly contribution to their survival is vital.
Successfully raising a new eagle chick can be quite a daunting task for the mother, and most of the challenge centers around finding prey in their slowly diminishing hunting habitat to feed not only themselves but the eaglet as well. The bad news is that urban development in the Roodekrans area is threatening to make finding food for the eagles nearly impossible and may force them to leave the region all together.
The Black Eagle Project Roodekrans is a non-profit organization founded in 1998 with the goal of observing this particular breeding pair's behavioral patterns and bringing global awareness to the the species. The project consists of a 7-member committee and approximately 20 dedicated volunteer members. This latest urban development proposal from the Mogale City Council has now made the organization's responsibility even greater. The Project feels that stopping the new development from proceeding is vital to the survival of the eagle couple. The birds use the mountainous ridges and habitat that are under threat to nest and hunt and if this proposal goes ahead, this critically endangered ecosystem could be permanently destroyed.
One of the ways the Black Eagle Project is attempting to save the eagle's home is through a live webcam being broadcast over the Internet. Project partners Africam.com have installed a custom built camera rig weighing in excess of 40kgs (88 lbs), with a 2 metre (6.5 feet) extension arm drilled directly into the rock face some 60 metres above the ground. The setup contains infrared light for night viewing, sound equipment and is completely solar powered ensuring a light touch to the environment.
The live camera gives viewers around the world the chance to watch the eagles raise their young. Emoyeni is currently sitting on two eggs that are expected to hatch in the next few days. Viewers can also take their own photos of the birds with Africam's “Live Snapshot” functionality. They can then share those pics on social media sites like Facebook. The Project hopes that all this attention will get the word out and stop the new development project from going forward. They encourage everyone to show their support by experiencing the hatching of the eggs live, taking photos and signing a petition that can be accessed from the website. With enough support they hope to see new Black Eagles being born in the area for another 70 years.