Between the 1970s and 1990s, Bonelli's eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) disappeared from Palencia, Leon, Soria, Segovia, Avila, Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Mallorca, Sardinia and Calabria. Conservation efforts carried out over the last 20 years have not been as effective as expected and the species is almost extinct in Navarra, Álava and Burgos; though some pairs survive thanks to the LIFE BONELLI project (LIFE12 NAT/ES/000701). In addition, the progressive loss of its potential territory is still taking place in other areas such as Aragón, Castilla y León, and Castellón. In Italy, it faces extinction in 50 years.
AQUILA a-LIFE aims at increasing the occurrence of the Bonelli's eagle population in the western Mediterranean (the centre and north of the Iberian Peninsula and in Sardinia), and at reversing its current regressive population trend, by contributing to the restoration of the habitats where it once lived. The project proposes working for the recovery of the species over a broad geographical area at the meta-population level (rather than at the level of small local populations). Bird releases will enable the return of the species, while the project will also address threats to the species. This methodology has previously been effective in the LIFE BONELLI project. Therefore, further bird releases are planned where those previous results were positive (Madrid, Navarra, Álava), and the methodology will also be transferred to Sardinia. Therefore, this project can be considered as the second phase of LIFE BONELLI project, given that reintroduction and reinforcement projects often require several stages of implementation.
The project has the following specific objectives: To reduce the risk that Bonelli's eagle and other bird species die as a result of electrocution in their natural habitat, both inside and outside protected areas; To conduct a thorough assessment of the conservation status of the Mediterranean meta-population of Bonelli's eagle, and the effectiveness of the recovery measures implemented; To involve all sectors, particularly hunting, in the recovery and management of Bonelli's eagle, to increase acceptance of the species; To assess the impact of the reintroduction of a top-level predator, such as the Bonelli’s eagle, on the ecosystem functions on a Mediterranean island; To reduce the risk of Bonelli's eagle or other birds dying by drowning in artificial ponds or by colliding with wires in espaliered vineyards; To increase the competitiveness of Bonelli's eagle against the golden eagle in its historical breeding territories; and To increase society's respect towards Bonelli's eagle in particular and towards raptors in general.
Expected results: Release of 25 individuals in Sardinia and 75 in the Iberian Peninsula (Madrid, Álava and Navarra), where there are already 10 to 15 new Bonelli's eagle pairs (including Mallorca); Proposed recommendations and measures to solve the problem of bird electrocution in Spain in the White Paper format, with at least 480 electricity power line pylons retrofitted; Updated European action plan for the Bonelli's eagle; Establishment of partnerships with hunters and relevant stakeholders in Alava, Mallorca and Navarra in order to increase Bonelli's eagle survival; Floating structures for birds in 200 irrigation ponds in Mallorca, and three cattle pond escape routes for wildlife in Navarra; A type of strap promoted as an alternative to wire in espaliered (supported/trained) vines in Mallorca and Álava, with practical sessions and a demonstration installation on 1 ha of vines in Álava; Three supplementary feeding points for Bonelli's eagle, and 20 ha cleared with installation of rabbit burrows in Navarra and Álava as a prey source; Raising awareness about the project and replication of the eagle’s reinforcement/ reintroduction in other places.