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Wedge-tailed eagle being nursed back to health after captivity

Media release: 8 May 2015

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is delighted that a Wedge-tailed eagle, suspected of being illegally kept in captivity and potentially mistreated, has survived the important first month of recuperation after being rescued on 6 April from the Sandy Hill area east of Tenterfield. 

NPWS Tenterfield Ranger Dirk Richards said this was one of a number of birds recovered by local Tenterfield wildlife carers in a similar poor condition, with injuries consistent with being kept as a pet over the last few years. 

“The local NPWS office is calling on any information the public may have about the bird,” Mr Richards said. 

”Wedge-tailed eagles are magnificent creatures and it is heartbreaking to find one with obvious signs of being kept in captivity and caged in poor conditions – both of which are against the law. 

“The bird’s injuries include her talons having all been cut extremely short, swollen feet caused by prolonged standing on hard surfaces, bone injuries to her right foot, infections in both of her feet from these various injuries, severe weight loss, lead poisoning and feathers in poor condition.

“All native mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and many native plant species are protected in NSW. Their removal from the wild is not permitted and can potentially result in prosecution and fines of up to $3,000.” 

Local wildlife carers Irene Horn of Tenterfield and Betty Balch of Stanthorpe were instrumental in rescuing the bird, now called Eva, who is making a good recovery due to their quick actions.  Her initial assessment was conducted by Dr Kirsten Widderick and Dr Erica Kennedy at Stanthorpe Vet Care Services, before a recent transfer to the care of avian specialist, Dr Bob Doneley of the University of Queensland, Gatton. 

“Dr Doneley informed us after inspecting Eva’s injuries that the cuts to her toes were so neat and clean that he could only describe them as malicious injury,” Ms Balch said. 

NPWS would like to remind NSW residents that a licence issued by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) is required to: keep native animals as pets; move native animals across state and territory borders; commercially trade in native birds; carry out research into protected animals and plants; care for sick and injured fauna; and harm fauna for the purpose of protecting property. 

While a number of native bird species are exempt from the need to hold a wildlife licence to keep them as pets, birds such as wedge-tailed eagles are not able to be kept as pets, with zoo’s and other specialised wildlife facilities the only organisations able to be licenced to keep the species. 

The outcome for a number of other birds recovered from the same area over the past few weeks has unfortunately not been as positive as Eva’s recovery.

Ms Horn recovered a lorikeet teenager with all flight feathers missing or cut on Monday 21 April that is still in her care; along with four rosellas with nails cut, wing feathers cut very short and very underweight that were recovered on Sunday 3 May, which have all subsequently died. 

The NPWS is asking anyone who has further information regarding Eva’s captivity or individuals keeping Wedge-tailed eagles in the Tenterfield district, to contact Tenterfield Area Office on 6736 4298 or drop into the office at 10 Miles Street, Tenterfield.  Information can be provided anonymously and will remain confidential. 

For full details on exempt species and obtaining wildlife licences interested parties should visit http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/wildlifelicences or their local NPWS office.

Contact: Danielle Schwerin

Page last updated: 08 May 2015