Visitors often make the mistake of rushing things. I took the next few weeks slowly. Some days it poured rain continuously and there was no choice but to stay house-bound learning to play cards and painting. I got to meet more people and socialise more often in those few weeks than in the last few years at home. Following monkeys was never boring, as there was always a special moment on each outing. We saw Spectacled Owls, leaf cutter ants in droves, Morpho Butterflies that flashed super-natural iridescence on forest paths, humming birds that stood fixed in mid air and then fled as fast as a bullet. Of plants and trees there was no limit. Fungi of weird shapes and colours sometimes offended by looking like orange plastic bottle tops.
On one occasion, Laila decided to go straight up the mountain onto paths cut by less than legal loggers to a place she had earlier got lost. She had been turned around and confused up near the summit and as night-fall approached, had made a super human rush to get back. She got “in touch with her survival instincts”, a state of incredible fitness that is sparked by necessity and a little fear. It is a state that I have sometimes had to draw upon. It allows that extra mile to slip by easily, the scratches to be unnoticed and the aching limbs to plough on unheeded. Looking around me on top of this same ridge, I could easily see how one could get lost. Everything looks the same. On that day, we sat on a clear opening overlooking a ridge that Laila had previously seen Swallow-tailed Kites from. Then we heard the distinctive call of a falcon. On the far ridge top was a dead tree on which two falcons sat. The binoculars and camera lens were unable to distinguish between the Bat Falcon………..or the very much rarer Orange Breasted Falcon. I hinted at Orange Breasted (or OBFs if you want to be cool) and Laila refused to accept this, saying I based my argument on pure wishful thinking. Unfortunately, Laila has a keen eye for details and is never led to conclusions based on hope, and I had to grudgingly concede that she is probably right.
Corcavado National Park and the surrounding buffer area comprise the largest contiguous primary forest in Central America. In this forest, actually outside the park but in the buffer zone, lives one pair of Harpy Eagles. The details of this single pair are enticingly cryptic. There is an understandable reluctance to make the site common knowledge. Jim Tamarack gave me a T shirt with Mision Aguila Harpia. Censo Anual de Aves Osa 2005. (Harpy Eagle Mission. Annual bird census, Osa, 2005), financed by a few key people on the penninsula for the conservation of Harpy Eagles in Cocavado National Park, Golfo Dulce Reserve and the Osa Peninsular. At that time, one juvenile, presumably the chick of the pair, was seen at various sites. It is interesting that this one bird was so often seen as it implies a good method of survey was used, and sadly that there are very few Harpies.
Laila and I hatched the obvious solution. Across the border in Panama, the Peregrine Fund (Fundo Peregrino, the neo-tropical branch of the same organisation with which I worked) had captive bred Harpy Eagles for some 10 years for release projects in Panama and Belize. The project was a success, but they are unfortunately closing down the operation this year which leaves the Osa out of luck. I emailed Angel, and Rick Watson and tried to get to either Panama or Belize to see their operation. But being a Kenyan citizen can be difficult for traveling and it proved not to be possible in the end. However, whatever the situation it is clear that there is a large area of suitable habitat (some 15 to 40 pairs could theoretically live here), and very importantly, the current move towards the creation of forest corridors the enlargement of the park, the inclusion of reserves and the overall decrease in the incidence of gold mining, timber and poaching could mean an improved environment for Harpy Eagles.
Laila took the lead in this, writing to Adrian Forsythe, and spurring Guido in his position as science director for Friends of the Osa to resurrect the former interest in this magnificent eagle. First, there should be a re-count of all possible nesting sites. Secondly or in parallel, there should be a public awareness campaign to bring on board the residents of the Osa. Then one can make a decision regarding the captive breeding and re-introduction of the Harpy Eagle, if at all it is necessary. As of now, Laila is keeping these objectives alive. If I could I would dearly love to work on such a project for this species is so similar to my favourite animal, the Crowned Eagle. Crowned Eagles would do fine here. I cannot imagine why the Harpy Eagle does not.