VETERINARIANS from Košice, environmentalists from the Raptor Protection Society of Slovakia (Ochrana dravcov na Slovensku) and Východoslovenská energetika (VSE), an electricity distribution company with headquarters in Košice, worked together to save a male Eastern imperial eagle, about four years old, which was electrocuted at the end of March.
Even though the eagle’s survival cannot be considered a miracle, there was only one way to assure that it could quickly return to the wild and this kind of treatment had never been attempted before in Slovakia, Ladislav Šimák of the Raptor Society told the TASR newswire.
When the eagle was found it was not able to fly as its tail and wings were severely burned. The eagle was taken to the University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy (UVL) in Košice where its vets decided to replace the burned body parts with ones from other animal donors.
Šimák told TASR that the injured eagle had been followed in recent years and is part of a nesting couple that had previously managed to produce and raise two young every year.
Ladislav Molnár of the UVL explained that the experimental method of replacing feathers is very demanding as it is hard to find proper donors, even though the technique has been undertaken successfully in other countries. Molnár said that the successful surgical replacement of feathers was undertaken with the eagle under complete anaesthesia, adding that natural replacement of the feathers would have taken two or three years.
After the eagle’s surgery and rehabilitation, it was fitted with a radio transmitter on its tail so that it can be monitored and returned to the veterinarians for additional treatment if necessary.
The Eastern imperial eagle is a rare species with not more than 40 couples currently nesting in Slovakia, Šimák told TASR. On May 10, the recovered eagle was transported to a locality near Moldava nad Bodvou where Jozef Tóth, in charge of environmental affairs for VSE, set the eagle free.