MEXICO CITY – Although it is a symbol of Mexico immortalized on the country’s flag, protecting the golden eagle is suffering from a severe lack of funding as well as a shortage of man-hours and personnel.
On Wednesday, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Golden Eagle, a species that after three decades of work by public and private agencies numbers just 150 mated pairs in the wild around the country, a number that places it squarely on the list of endangered species.
The field coordinator for the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN), Enrique Cisneros, told EFE that Mexico is still far from equaling the laudable work carried out by the United States over the past century to protect the bald eagle, that country’s national symbol.
Mexico’s northern neighbor nowadays has more than 20,000 bald eagles living in the wild, although in the 1930s the species was on the verge of extinction.
In Mexico’s case, he said, efforts to preserve Aquila chrysaetos are a far cry from the coordinated utilization of time, laws and money that the US has mustered to protect its national bird.
A golden eagle grows to weigh more than 6.5 kilograms (14.3 pounds) and to measure a meter (3.28 feet) in height.
They can live to age 25 and are noted for mating for life.
In flight, the bird can reach a speed of 250 kph when it dives.
Its vision is also phenomenal, eight times more acute than human sight, allowing it to make out the lettering on a newspaper at a distance of two km.
The resources for conserving the bird have never been enough in Mexico, and much more intense participation in the effort is required from both the private sector and civil society, especially given that this year the new federal government curtailed the resources allocated to the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat (Semarnat).
Currently, Semarnat operates with less than a quarter of the budget it had during the previous six-year administration.
Since 2010, the FMCN has had a conservation program that has enabled its personnel to observe between 150 and 170 mated pairs of golden eagles in the wild in the corridor that includes the states of Baja California, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Aguascalientes and Queretaro.
Cisneros added that recently another pair was spotted in Oaxaca, something that he said was good news.
In 2012, the federal government reported that there were 81 known pairs of eagles in Mexico and at the end of 2018 there had been a 75 percent increase in those numbers.
“We estimate that there are a little over 200 more than have been counted, but the effort and trained personnel are lacking to monitor them. On the other hand, the loss of habitat is so great that perhaps we’re going to lose pairs or nesting areas that we never knew about,” he said.
Cisneros, who has worked in the field for 30 years, emphasized that Mexico needs greater continuity in its conservation programs of the eagles’ various habitats, adding that some individuals have been electrocuted by electrical towers that have been erected in their ecosystems.