Park Rangers Rally to Save Endangered Hula Eagle Chick

Rangers remove chick from nest after finding it is suffering from a disease that causes sores on its face, eyes and beak.

Rangers, veterinarians and the Israel Electric Corporation are all collaborating to save a white-tailed eagle chick that fell off a tree in the Hula Valley nature reserve yesterday. The chick is the first of the species hatched in nature in the Middle East since the 1950s, and is on the list of the world's endangered species.

Rangers from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority have been keeping a close watch on the nesting of the white-tailed eagles, which were released back into nature as part of a project to reintroduce raptors into their natural habitat.

A few years ago, a pair of eagles started nesting in a tree in the Hula Valley nature reserve. For the past few weeks rangers have been carefully documenting the chicks, the first in 60 years.

One chick has already died, but the second is doing well, and was expected to leave the nest within two weeks.

But at the beginning of the week, the rangers found the chick is suffering from a disease that causes sores on its face, eyes and beak. After consulting with experts, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority decided that it had no choice but to try to remove the chick from the nest, treat it and then return it to nature.

The Israel Electric Corporation - which is a partner in the program of reintroducing the birds into nature, along with the Society for the Protection of Nature - had already begun preparations for rescuing the eagle chick. The IEC provided a special crane and planned to remove the chick on Sunday.

The INPA's veterinary hospital, along with the Zoological Center of Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan, started making preparations for treating the chick. But yesterday, only a few days before the scheduled rescue operation, INPA ranger Yoram Malka discovered the nest was empty and the chick was missing.

"I identified three adult white-tailed eagles around and on the tree. They were all looking down and it was clear to me something exceptional had happened," said Malka. He approached the tree and discovered the chick had left the nest and fallen to the lower branches of the tree - and from there to the ground. Malka picked up the huge chick and treated it, then brought the wounded bird to the INPA veterinary hospital.

The accident occurred just a month after a pair of white-tailed eagles in the Emek Hefer region died after being poisoned. The INPA's avian ecologist, Ohad Hatzofe, said the eagles face a number of threats, including poisoning, a loss of nesting areas and illegal hunting.