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Kyalo's transformative journey of training a rehab African Fish Eagle

Allow me to share with you the captivating story of how I embarked on the journey of training an African fish eagle. It all began with a vision of creating a strong bond between the Eagle and myself. The journey started with countless hours of research learning on how to approach the bird with some food and manning (trying to be partners with) the eagle. Throughout the process I encountered numerous challenges and setbacks but with determination I adapted and evolved the training method.


It was a labour of love, pouring countless hours trying to make my journey successful.The breakthroughs and milestones brought immense satisfaction. Now, as I reflect on my journey, I realised that it was not just about training an African fish eagle but creating a bond between the Eagle and a human being.


I am working with the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust which works as a rehabilitation centre for raptors and it's where I initially encountered the young African fish eagle. The bird was rescued by our vet Juliet Waiyaki at Naivasha Raptor Centre with serious injuries on its wings and chest which affected its ability to fly and was then brought to our care. It seemed that it had been fighting with another fish eagle.


After a few weeks we were ready to release the bird, but it still depended on us to feed it because it was unable to hunt. I came up with the idea of taking it back and I stepped up and took the challenging responsibility of training it. Simon Thomsett motivated me and I was captivated by an overwhelming sense of curiosity, driven by a desire to understand and connect with the bird on a deep level.


Building trust with an eagle can be a gradual process that requires patience and respect for the bird. I spent a lot of time near the eagle engaging in non threatening activities such as quietly observing it. I also consulted a professional Albanus Mwanzia (who is my father), he is a falconry expert on handling and training eagles.


On approaching the bird I had to communicate with it. I used specific sounds trying to make the eagle respond to my call. I used a creance (long fine cord attached to a hawk's leash to prevent escape during training) at first to fly the bird from a distance of two metres. Over time the eagle learned to associate these cues with specific actions or requests and at this point I could fly it freely. Every time he responded to my cues I provided positive reinforcement such as praise. The eagle at this point showed huge improvement and I ended up gaining more knowledge.

As days went by I started flying the bird freely. At first I didn't trust it but I was surprised after staying in the air for almost three minutes it came back to my hand. I could not hide my joy to anyone because I could not believe it. I kept on increasing the distance between the eagle and I to about 5 km away but the bird still came where I was.


It has been a journey that has taught me a lot like the importance of mindset. There were challenges and setbacks in the journey that I might have not discussed but I understood that failures or mistakes are opportunities for learning and improving. I learned the value of collaboration, I had professionals whom I consulted on anything I wanted to understand and they shared effective ideas. This rare opportunity allowed me to witness the incredible beauty and power of these majestic birds up close.

For some reason Kyalo didn't want to put the Fish Eagle on the T perch. Not much later this lioness walked by!
For some reason Kyalo didn't want to put the Fish Eagle on the T perch. Not much later this lioness walked by!

Balancing between buffalos and lions at Soysambu Conservancy to fly the bird brought its own challenges, but the experience was incredibly rewarding. The bond that formed between me and the eagle throughout the training process is something I will cherish forever. Overall, my journey with the fish eagle has been more than just an adventure, it has become transformative that deepened my connection with nature and instilled a sense of responsibility to protect and conserve our natural world. I am grateful for the opportunity and my hope is that by sharing my story, I can inspire others to appreciate and protect the incredible diversity of wildlife that exists in our world.

 

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Kenya Bird of Prey Trust

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