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14 June 2018

New home for the Steller’s sea eagle rescued by Sakhalin-1 team.

The young Steller's Sea Eagle who was saved by Berkut platform personnel in December of last year has found a new and exciting home in the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Zoo. And he has got a girlfriend!

So was the recommendation by leading Steller's Sea Eagle specialists Vladimir Masterov, an ornithologist, Cand. Sc. (Biology), and Vladimir Romanov, a specialist on birds of prey, Cand. Sc. (Biology), and Director of Green Parrot (a Moscow bird hospital). Based on the experts’ opinions, Rosprirodnadzor, an agency engaged in the protection of Red Book species, permitted the bird’s transfer to the zoo.

The Sea Eagle is now entrusted with a unique and historic mission. It will become an integral part in the Steller's Sea Eagle Program.

The Program was created in the 1990s and was implemented by the Eurasian Regional Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EARAZA). One of the promising focus areas of the Program is mating Steller’s Sea Eagles that have been removed from nature, for varying reasons, in order to augment the population of the species. In the future, the hand-reared younglings could be used to sustain the natural populations.

The Komsomolsk-on-Amur Zoo now has a suitable pair for breading. A young female bird sought refuge in Bogorodskoye village (Khabarovsk Krai) in the winter of 2015.  After being found, she was brought back to health and was also transferred to the zoo. 

Thanks to the help of its human friends and caregivers since being rescued on Sakhalin-1 Project’s “Berkut” oil and gas platform, the eagle’s condition has steadily improved. Environmental specialists from Exxon Neftegas Limited, the Project’s Operator, arranged for support and medical treatment of the rare bird in coordination with Rosprirodnadzor. 

It was not immaturity or lack of experience to be blamed for the eagle’s lingering till late in the north of Sakhalin which lead to exhaustion, and finally forced the bird to seek help from people. Based on a thorough analysis, Vladimir Romanov identified the cause: an infection that damaged the cornea on both eyes of the bird.

Peter Van der Wolf, a well-known Sakhalin specialist on whales and other marine mammals, has become a very special friend that nursed the bird back to health. Van der Wolf worked with eagles in European zoos, and thus has extensive experience working with birds of prey. For several months, Peter was a second father to the eagle and developed a lifelong bond and friendship that will be remembered by both the bird and Peter. The young bird needed a well-balanced diet, close to what he would have eaten in the wild, as well as regular medical treatments.

The wholehearted care defeated the infection, and the eagle even put on weight about 20%! Unfortunately, despite the rigorous treatments and diligent care, the disease left its mark. A portion of the eagle’s cornea has become opaque, and his vision will never be as it was prior to the illness. Birds of prey have exceptionally sharp eyesight; it is critical for searching for food. Steller’s Sea Eagles can see potential food quite far away; thus, even a slight deterioration of eyesight can substantially reduce chances of survival.

It was for this reason that experts were unanimous in recommending the bird stay under the care of people. The fate of the Red Book Steller’s Sea Eagle has taken a turn for the better, for the decision to seek help on an oil platform was correct and nothing threatens its life anymore. Now he has the noble role of becoming the newest member of the Steller’s Sea Eagle Program and obtaining a bride.

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