Spizaetus And the black market

For those of you who have visited Otorongo Expeditions Jungle Lodge, you should be familiar with Spizzy and Morphus, both birds are victims of the illegal wildlife trade in the Peruvian Amazon. We rescued Spizzy in 2007 after a tip from a fellow raptor lover. Spizzy weighed 900grams at the time, emaciated, dehydrated parasite ridden and psychologically traumatized,he was missing almost a third of his body weight. Spizzy now weighs in around 1300-1250.

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For some time I worked to train Spizzy to come to the glove so I could release him and have him fly for crowds of people. in order to do this, we have to regulate the food he consumes. After a few months of aggravating failure, I decided he was too tweaked to do anything else than live in captivity and sit on a perch to be looked at. I frequently take Spizzy to the local villages to educate locals on raptors. Children and adults would line up to take turns caressing Spizzy as he sat on my fist. I have spent so much time with him on my fist so he actually enjoys the interaction. I can scratch him on his breast, under the chin and his favorite, right around the eyes. You should see the expressions on the children’s face as they run their fingers down the long black talons that are used for puncturing prey.

If Spizzy were ever to be free, he would most likely end up in someones backyard, looking at their chickens. Well you should know what happens to hawks that eat people’s chickens……yea bang and to the soup pot.

On more than one occasion, wild eagles have come to investigate the flight pens where the Spizzy and Morphus are. After investigating for five to ten minutes, they usually fly downstream Amazon along the fringe of the forest and river until they come up to a village . When this happens, you can be sure I am running to the neighbors offering to buy whatever the eagle catches as long as they do not shoot the bird.

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On one occasion this saved a large white crested eagle that was in the sights of a single shot 16 gauge. I did not see the bird, but my neighbor whom I trust came and complained of the eagle that ate a chicken of his. Without hesitation,I gave him thirty soles and thanked him for not shooting.

Some people are not that considerate. I have had one villager come and boast that he shot an eagle that looked just like mine. He actually thought it was mine so that gave him more reason to shoot it. He somehow thought that I would give him a pat on the back for his efforts…… He is not the smartest person I have ever met and on that note you should know that alcoholism is rampant in rural areas.

You must understand the simpler point of view that mestizo forest dwellers hold, and when you understand it completely, please let me know what you have come up with because sometimes simplicity is complicated and I still am guessing

The ornate hawk eagle is perhaps by far one of the most beautiful and majestic birds of prey in the neotropical rainforest. The hawk eagle genus (Spizeatus)include several species here in the new world and a few species in the old world tropics.

These mid size raptors are very fast and have an excellent maneuverability amongst the branches. They have some of the longest talons and strongest grip for their size.Theses are forest canopy dwellers and are rarely seen soaring above the trees, they feed on a variety of prey items such as iguanas, small monkeys, toucans, parrots, bamboo rats and snakes. Their stick nests are generally in the tallest trees.

This type of raptor has proven to be quite resilient when it comes to coping with encroaching settlement, they have been known to be able to thrive and reproduce in two hundred hectare plots. That is a considerably small range compared to the harpy eagle that need between 10,000 and 20,000 hectares. All these factors are variable depending on food availability due to predation of other animals or deforestation.

By far the biggest threats to these birds is deforestation and the illegal animal trade. A bird like Spizeatus can fetch a five digit figure if sold to the right person so to a lot of traffickers it’s kind of like drug trafficking, such a small product for such a large profit. Even with the apparent dangers of trafficking, the threat of getting caught , being jailed and your product confiscated is shaded out by the possible reward. If the ecological police end up finding out you have the bird, they will wait for you to sell it so they can get their share, this is the same for a lot of things and not just animal traffic if you know what I mean.

I once naively thought that the ecological police cared, so we called and reported an emaciated harpy eagle that was tied to a rusty grill in someone’s backyard. We even volunteered to stick around and make sure they did not sneak out the back while the police were en route. After an agonizing two hours, the police showed up and told us to get the hell out of there and if we keep causing trouble, that WE would find ourselves locked up for the night. Hmmm, so this officer must have been doing this for some time, it must have been the perps uncle, cousin, brother, neighbor, partner in crime or I don’t know what. The division of ecological protection is adulterated by money grubbing city slickers that have no clue of what they are protecting. They are familiar with paper work and money,everything in between is a bother.

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These traffickers do not really care about the well being of the animal, for the most part they buy it from some villager for peanuts, they feed it scarcely and treat it poorly until its will to fight and live completely leaves them and they enter into a permanent state of shock! The trafficker does not care if he sells it alive or dead, alive would be better for a higher price but even if it dies, he can still sell the feet and feathers for IGNORANT tourist trinkets. Nothing makes me fume more than seeing a stuffed eagle being displayed in someone’s house or business, they have no idea what that majestic being was put through so it could be a novelty in their home or business.

I am in the early stages of organizing a fund for the maintenance of the two eagles in my care, the fund will also promote the education of locals, preservation of habitat and the amplification of facilities needed to tend to victimized birds of the black market. With this organization, it will be easier to persecute the wildlife traffickers and facilitate the rehabilitation of birds consfiscated front them.

If you have any ideas or are interested in helping with this cause, please contact Anthony Giardenelli

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2 Responses to Spizaetus And the black market

  1. Irene says:

    I’m glad you’re out there rooting for them Anthony. Spizzy was one of my favorite characters there ~ talk about GORGEOUS!

    • otoex says:

      Thanks for your support Irene, Spizzy is a captivating bird, some say his eyes look evil, but for those of us who know him, he just likes to be scratched

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