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The Recovery Journey of a Tawny Eagle

My name is Leah Chepkorir, an intern at Soysambu Raptor centre. I would like to take you through the recovery journey of my friend whom I nicknamed ‘Girlie’, a Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax). Its scientific name means “rapacious aggressive eagle” but this amazing bird is quite different from this description. She will look at you in a very polite way and have perfect manners, making sure she never steps off the glove onto your arm, and occasionally she will lean over and tweak my hair.

Girlie was brought from a small Town called Rongai in Nakuru County by one of Simon's friends to our rescue centre at Soysambu Conservancy. It was my first time to see this kind of a raptor close up. Her flight feathers were completely fried after being electrocuted on a power pole. I admit to being very emotional about this needless destruction of a fantastic eagle, and hundreds of others like her on power lines that can so easily be made totally safe.

My story

My passion for nature started when I was 10 years old. While growing up on Soysambu Conservancy, I would sneak every day from home to walk in the nearby forest to watch birds. I couldn’t wait for my mother to send me to the nearby shop with my small bicycle, so that I can have that chance to spot any bird on the way. Once I was surprised by a magnificent bird of prey perching on an Umbrella Thorn (Acacia tortilis). I used to often find them in pairs but that time I had no idea what kind of raptor it was but its colour was pale brown. I thought it was a vulture because it wasn’t easy in those days for me to identify a bird of prey. Today, thanks to working at the raptor centre I know it must have been a Tawny Eagle. I guess because I have lived on a conservancy and now work with wildlife and occasionally teach others about conservation nothing gives me the satisfaction I get from taking a walk in the bush. Right around the centre we have buffalos, lions and leopards as well as buzzards, falcons, owls and eagles. I tried to do other work apart from nature conservation but it isn't “my thing”.

As I grew older, my passion for nature grew stronger. And nature grows weaker and is fast declining.

In school, my friends thought I was crazy. However, my passion for birds and nature in general was in my blood. Today, I'm grateful to have helped save the life of a Tawny Eagle (Girlie), who is now 18 months old. Her Primary (retrices) and Secondary (regimes) flight feathers were utterly fried. Her feathers are slowly growing back though her left eye is blind. We hope that she will be able to go to an eye specialist for an operation to remove part of her iris that has been torn away and floats right in the middle of her eye. It is odd that she is so kind and gentle, for she was once in a lot of pain and everyone thought she would be hostile.

Me holding “Girlie” the Tawny Eagle. You can see how her flight feathers were burnt.

My passion for nature and birds encouraged me to take care of Girlie. When she first came in she lay in a kennel and I remember I had to hold back my tears. I would wake up at dawn and check if she is still breathing. I would wake up to feed her frequently to make sure she got the proper nutrients. It wasn't an easy task but she has recovered hugely and I can tell you the connection we now have is so magical because I played a part in saving her life.

Though she hasn’t recovered fully I'm grateful for how far we (both of us) have come. She has one character that impresses me the most…that of being so very polite, especially when training her. She cannot fly properly now, but she will one day. She can be trained to fly free even with one eye but of course cannot be returned to the wild. We will try to get her to an eye specialist and if that succeeds she too, like so many others we have at the centre, be returned to the wild at Soysambu Conservancy.

Girlie needs eye surgery

The reason for Girlie's blindness is evident from the photo below. The iris has been damaged and a part has detached and lies right in the way of the visual path. This can be resolved with eye surgery. After the surgery (and moult) she may be releasable but we don't know for sure. What we do know is that eye surgery is simple but expensive. And whatever the outcome it will hugely increase her quality of life.

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Kenya Bird of Prey Trust

Understand - Protect - Restore

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