LightHawk uses air support to rescue, track threatened species


BLightHawky Stephanie Jackson Ali

Already this year, LightHawk, our current Natural World beneficiary, has participated in two activities to protect and preserve endangered wildlife in the vulnerable habitats of Central America.

In November 2012, the first-ever harpy eagle nest discovered in Honduras was found during a ground expedition by biologists from Panthera and Asociación Patuca. This is the first nest seen north of Panama. Since then, much work has been done in the area by LightHawk to protect the nest, including working on a conservation strategy. Ground expeditions to the area had been carried out for information gathering, but it was believed more could be gained from the air.  

LightHawk harpy eagleOn January 29, LightHawk donated a conservation survey flight to “reveal where threats to the nest’s viability may exist,” Armando Ubeda, LightHawk’s Mesoamerica program manager. The flight would also provide a look at the surrounding topography, inside “the largest national park in Honduras, to inform plans to safeguard the breeding pair.”

Harpy eagles are among the “heaviest and most powerful of birds” in the Americas. But they are also quickly losing habitat and home to logging and poaching, as well as destruction of habitat. Efforts such as those by LightHawk will help to encourage the regrowth of the species in areas where the birds have not been seen in some time.

A few days later, in early February, LightHawk arranged a flight for an injured Yucatan black howler monkey, named Mia, to be taken to Wildtracks Primate Rehabilitation Center in Sarteneja, Belize. Wildtracks, founded by Zoe and Paul Walker, often works with LightHawk in the region.

LightHawk black howler monkeyDays earlier, Mia had been hit by a car, and although she had no broken bones, she showed signs of a concussion. The idea is for Mia to spend time at Wildtracks for rest and recuperation and return to the wild in a few weeks.

It is also believed Mia is nursing, so there is pressure to get her healthy and back with her original troop quickly to reunite her with her juvenile.  Yucatan howler monkeys are also very social, so it is important for her to return to the wild quickly so as not to become depressed.

Black howler monkeys have fallen victim to habitat loss, hunting, and the global pet trade. Estimates from conservationists put the entire adult population at just 2,500. The Yucatan black howler monkey has been endangered since 2003.