Electrocutions Data Base
Falconers can imagine little worse than the electrocution of their hunting bird. None-the-less, many of us have had the dreadful experience of going into the Field with a fit, alert hawk that is ready to hunt and returning with our falconry partner reduced to an inert bundle of feathers through contact with live electric wires. It is heart-breaking, and all the worse because it is completely preventable.
Of course, it is not only Falconry birds that are killed in this way. Every year thousands if not millions of birds, many of them raptors and many representing endangered species are killed, all over the world, because of poorly constructed electricity supply structures. It is quite probable that electrocutions are a very significant factor in the decline in Saker falcon population numbers. There is no doubt that the culprit structures can be built correctly or modified to avoid this senseless slaughter.
There are a number of countries around the world where this problem is being addressed effectively. In South Africa where the Electricity supply utility (ESCOM) has formed a partnership with one of the largest conservation N.G.O.s in the country, the Endangered Wildlife Trust. There is an enthusiasm to assist falconers and provide advice on mitigation in response to electrocution incidents.
In IAF a Data Base of Electrocutions is managed, on our behalf , by a falconers of the South African Falconry Association. All falconers are encouraged to report the electrocution of any falconry birds as well as the electrocution of wild raptors.
The following process should be followed in the event of an electrocution event:
1. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, ideally including a cell-phone photo of the structure.
2. A representative of the Action Group will respond to obtain other information needed.
3. Once the information has been processed and included in the data base, advice regarding mitigation of the structure will be sent to the falconer or organization who reported the incident.
4. If the IAF Member organization reporting the incident wishes, a letter to the National Authorities can be prepared by the IAF reporting and requesting the implementation of mitigation.
5. This process puts power to address electrocution incidents into the hands of falconers on the ground. In this way, IAF and its membership can address a problem facing falconry birds and assist with a significant international conservation issue.
Example of event report:
Please find below details regarding an electrocuted Crowned Eagle
Date: 9th of November, 11am.
Location: Giba Gorge, Durban. KZN.
GPS location. -29.82465, 30.777
The bird was found very fresh and still warm, pre-rigor mortis. A juvenile Crowned Eagle, approximately 12 months old (extensive body moult but no flight feathers yet moulted).
Scorch marks on the sole of the right foot and on the forehead were apparent.
Measurements were taken prior to freezing, and a tissue sample taken for DNA sexing.
The specimen is currently frozen and awaiting collection by the Durban Natural History Museum.
I arrived to collect the specimen at 1430, and went to the location to GPS and photograph. There was a large troop of monkeys foraging at the skip bins, where two of these distribution poles provided prime still-hunting perches.
The actual electrocution pole is #116518, at GPS -29.82465, 30.77, and the other very likely candidate for electrocution is pole #084283 at GPS -29.82495, 30.7767
A shocking fate for thousands of endangered falcons
Tens of thousands of birds of prey are electrocuted at power lines worldwide every year. The situation is especially bad in Central Asia where an estimated 4000 globally endangered Saker Falcons are killed each year along with thousands of other birds of prey including eagles. The Saker Falcon is the focus of an extensive programme to provide artificial nesting sites, producing over 2500 young falcons last year, but the number of young produced in this conservation project is dwarfed by those electrocuted when they perch on poorly designed power poles.
The Saker is the only falcon species to be classified as Globally Endangered and is the subject of a Global Action Plan developed under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Electrocution of Saker falcons is becoming recognized as the most significant cause of population decline. The Saker’s range extends well into Southern Europe, through Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria where, despite strict regulations, is some places poor electrical transmission infrastructure still exists resulting in accidental electrocutions on powerlines.
The situation becomes much worse in Asia. A study, funded by the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi conducted with the Eastern Energy System power company in Mongolia demonstrated the electrocution of 55 Saker falcons per 10 kilometres of power-line per year on a test section. Electrocution rates can be significantly reduced at a cost of less than €18 per power pole.
In Hungary, projects to make powerlines safe have been particularly successful, but these must be extended. Even more importantly, new transmission lines and the renovation of old lines must incorporate simple measures to make these lines safe for large perching birds. The IAF is raising awareness of the disastrous levels of electrocutions and encouraging investors (both private and public) in electrical grids to insist on bird-friendly pole installations.
Background information on electrocution of birds of prey in Asia can be found here.
Background information on electrocution of birds of prey in a document on protecting birds from power lines adopted by the Conseil de l'Europe, may be found here. Action Points Listed In the Budapest Declaration on Bird Protection and Power Lines may be found here.