| Poisoning of Eastern Imperial Eagles in Hungary
The eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) is a globally threatened Eurasian bird species, with a world population of only a few thousand breeding pairs. Hungary holds the largest population of eastern imperial eagles in the European Union, as the 117 nesting pairs of the country represents 62% of the total EU population in 2010. The population of the imperial eagle is slowly but continuously increasing in Hungary since the 1980’s, but this small population is still vulnerable and far from saturation according to the amount and quality of available habitats.
Recently the favourable conservation status of the imperial eagle in Hungary is seriously threatened by the exponentially increasing trend of persecution incidents. Poisoning was not noticed as a mortality factor of imperial eagles in Hungary till 2005, but during the last five years 36 specimens were found poisoned and 9 more were assumed to die directly or indirectly due to poisoning. Moreover other types of intentional persecution of imperial eagles were also reported, as 4 specimens and 2 nests with clutches were shot.
Therefore all together most probably 54 imperial eagle specimens became the victim of persecution incidents during the last years, which is equal to 23.1% of the national and 14.2 of the EU’s breeding population size in 2010. Besides imperial eagles 932 other protected birds belongs to 20 different species (e.g. 65 Haliaeetus albicilla, 12 Falco cherrug, 271 Buteo buteo) have been found poisoned in Hungary during the last ten years. And these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg, because it is estimated that in average less that 15% of all poison deaths are reported.
If the recent intensity of such illegal activities remains or even continues to increase, it will very probably reverse the population trend of the species in Hungary, and also in the neighbouring countries during the next few years.