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Brokering a settlement between eagles and industry: sustainable management of large raptors nesting on power infrastructure
- JENKINS, ANDREW R., DE GOEDE, KOOS H., SEBELE, LOVELATER, DIAMOND, MEGAN
- Bird conservation international 2013 v.23 no.2 pp. 232-246
- Aquila, animal welfare, birds of prey, breeding, eagles, electric power, energy, industry, infrastructure, nesting, power lines, surveys, South Africa
- In the Karoo region of South Africa, eagles nesting on high voltage power pylons are responsible for frequent short-circuits or faults, which reduce the quality of commercial power supply and escalate costs to the country’s energy supplier, Eskom. Between 2002 and 2006 we conducted annual helicopter surveys of eagle nests on 1,400 km of power line and located 139 large nest structures, making up 96 eagle territories occupied by three species: Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus (66 pairs), Verreaux’s Eagle Aquila verreauxii (13 pairs) and Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax (17 pairs), and detailed 357 pair-years of breeding activity, including 241 breeding attempts. Roost sites and active nests were associated with line faulting, and more so at particular pylon configurations. We developed a three-step management plan to reduce eagle-related faulting while still accommodating eagles on the power lines: (i) all (potentially) problematic nests were relocated from high-risk positions above the power conductors, to specially provided platforms placed below the conductors; (ii) perch deterrents were installed above the conductors on all nest pylons and on high-risk pylons up to 10 structures on both sides of each nest tower; and (iii) the welfare of the eagles was monitored before and after management. In this way, line faulting was reduced on actively managed lines by > 75%, with no obvious deleterious effects on the eagle population. The study revealed that: (i) power lines can support substantial breeding populations of threatened large raptors, (ii) these birds can be a source of commercially significant line faulting, and (iii) nest relocations and perch deterrents are effective in reducing faulting without negatively impacting eagle populations.