In December 2013 Rowen van Eeden successfully GPS tagged a martial eagle chick that was soon to fledge (Figure 1).
The nest was in the Crocodile Bridge section of Kruger National Park and this was the first time a tag was deployed on a martial eagle still in the nest. The aim of the tagging was to find out about the movements of young eagles as they disperse from the nest, and there were high hopes that we might follow it through to adulthood. In total 18 martial eagles have now been GPS tagged for this project (this includes a combination of both young and adult eagles), but this one remains particularly special.
Although the tags provide us with a way to closely follow the movements of eagles in the ‘virtual’ world and we can view their locations on Google Earth almost daily, we rarely get to see them in the real world as they’re always on the move. However, in Jan 2016 Keith Jenkinson sent us a beautiful picture of this individual photographed at Inyati Game Lodge. By then he was two years old and was obviously doing well for himself. In the picture he had the tail of a rock monitor in his feet (Figure 2).
Last week we were concerned that the tag had stopped moving and quickly contacted Ulusaba Private Reserve (owned by Sir Richard Branson) where his last known location was recorded. The guides there responded quickly and searched the area where he was thought to be but didn’t find anything. We waited anxiously hoping the tag would come back online and then on Sunday I got a call from one of Ulusaba’s guides, Kyle Michel, saying they had found the eagle – well actually, he was perched in a tree close to the lodge eating another rock monitor he had caught (Figure 3). Just over four years since he was tagged, he is looking magnificent. We are thrilled and his tag is again functioning perfectly.
He’s been to Mozambique a few times, spent a lot of time in southern Kruger and in the network of private game reserves to the west of Kruger and now we’re really hopeful that one day soon he might settle down for his first breeding attempt – watch this space!
Many thanks to everyone who has been involved in tagging and following this individual.