Controversy has ignited (yet again) over the reintroduction of white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) in the Asturias region, with conflicting views on their impact. Concerns have been raised by ecologists about the potential threat these “superpredator” eagles pose to local wildlife.
A recent incident involving an encounter between a bearded vulture and a released “pigargo”, shared by the Coordinadora Ecoloxista d’Asturies (who are in total opposition to this project) has now sparked further debate with some demanding the prompt capture of the released eagles to prevent any further detrimental interactions. While some viewed it as evidence of potential issues, GREFA (the project coordinators) has maintained that such encounters were a natural part of the ecosystem.
The “Pigargo Project”, initiated with the goal of reintroducing the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) into Spain using individuals from Norway, faced immediate controversy when it was first announced. Biologists and ecologists from the region warned of potential dangers to native species, especially those already threatened.
Environmental associations have argued that these “superpredators”, known for their diet of fish, birds, and mammals, could significantly disrupt the conservation efforts for threatened species in the Asturian fauna. In response, the GREFA association, the driving force behind the Pigargo Project, have contested these claims.
After more than two years of intensive monitoring, GREFA reported that there had been no documented negative interactions between the released pigargos and protected species. They argued that portraying these eagles as catastrophic for local wildlife or livestock was based on incomplete information.
GREFA has also highlighted the positive side of their project, citing the benefits of introducing the eagle (known as a pigargo in Spanish) to the region. Notably, their presence has led to improved safety measures for birds, such as anti-electrocution measures on power line supports in Asturias and Cantabria.
In this video from 2017 it is really easy to see that the interaction between the white tailed eagle and other birds of prey are quite normal. In this case its a visiting white tailed eagle with both Bonelli’s and Imperial eagles. (This video was taken before GREFA started its introduction project in Asturias.)
The controversy raises essential questions about the balance between conservation efforts and the potential risks associated with species reintroduction. As discussions continue, it is crucial to consider the comprehensive data gathered through extensive monitoring and avoid demonizing these eagles without a clear understanding of their impact.
In the absence of conclusive evidence, the fate of the Pigargos in Asturias remains uncertain, leaving stakeholders to navigate the complexities of wildlife conservation and coexistence.
The original article in Spanish “Los pigargos liberados en Ribadedeva son un peligro para la fauna salvaje” here: https://coordinadoraecoloxista.org/los-pigargos-liberados-en-ribadedeva-son-un-peligro-para-la-fauna-salvaje/
Read the article arguing that the eagles should be removed from the wild and the project halted here: (in Spanish) at https://revistajaraysedal.es/fotografian-aguila-superdepredadora-liberada-ecologistas-enfrentandose-fauna-autoctona/
Read the press release from GREFA (in Spanish) arguing that the interactions with other wildlife is quite normal here: https://www.grefa.org/noticias/94-notas-de-prensa/4338-nota-de-prensa-los-pigargos-europeos-liberados-en-asturias-no-perjudican-al-quebrantahuesos-ni-a-otras-especies-amenazadas.html
The article here at Wildside Holidays about the pigargo reintroduction project: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/reintroduction-of-the-extinct-in-spain-white-tailed-eagle-haliaeetus-albicilla/
Wikipedia has an extensive article about the white tailed eagle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_eagle
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