Bonn-Cape Town, 13 September 1999. In the
coming days four eagles start their flight from their breeding
sites in Eastern Germany and Poland to go to their wintering
grounds in Africa. They will be embarking on a special mission.
They will be carrying some luggage with them on their 10,000
kilometre journey; each of them will have a miniature transmitter
and a small metal capsule containing a message of greeting
for the South African President, Thabo Mbeki.
The message is being sent from Dr. Klaus
Töpfer, the former German Minister for the Environment who
now heads the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
and the reason is an international conference on the conservation
of migratory wild animals which is taking place in Cape
Town from 6th to 16th November. Mbeki
is the main host. The eagles are expected to arrive on South
African soil at the beginning of November.
The message reads:
1979-1999 - twenty years in existence - CMS:
The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild
This eagle connects ecosystems of Europe,
Middle East and Africa
Migratory species are paramount symbols
of our common natural heritage
COP6 / AEWA, 6-16 November 1999, Cape Town,
The Convention, which aims to offer protection
across national boundaries to species threatened with extinction
(such as whales, seals, polar bears, elephants and migratory
birds and to which so far 65 countries have acceded, was
signed in Bonn in 1979 - hence its common, short name "Bonn
Convention". There are between 5,000 and 10,000 migratory
species, many of them are threatened with extinction and
very many have not been researched at all.
The message is contained in a metal capsule
weighing one gramme. The capsule is attached to an aerodynamically
shaped transmitter weighing about 30 grammes, which allows
the eagle’s flight from Germany to Africa to be followed
using satellite telemetry. Thanks to this technology, important
and detailed information about the migration routes and
wintering areas of many migratory species has been obtained.
Only with this knowledge, is it possible to conserve the
The German eagle expert, Prof Bernd Meyburg,
was able to catch the four eagles (three Lesser spotted
eagles form Eastern Germany and one Greater spotted eagle)
at the end of July and attach the transmitters and the message.
All animal welfare considerations were taken into account
and there were no reasons to have second thoughts. The idea
for this unusual exercise, combining Hi-Tech and age-old
instincts, came from the well-known zoologist, Dr Richard
Leakey, the former Director of Wildlife Kenya.
The event in Cape Town is the Sixth Meeting
of the Conference of the Parties, to which experts from
over a hundred countries will be coming. Africa with its
wealth of animal species is an important focus of the Convention’s
activities, especially for the threatened mountain gorillas,
the almost extinct antelopes and gazelles of the North African
Desert, the Mediterranean Monk seal as well as the marine
turtles and dolphins of Africa’s coastal waters.
In the CMS-Conference, the First Meeting
of the parties of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement
(AEWA), a regional agreement concluded under the auspices
of the Bonn Convention, is taking place. Under this Agreement,
for the first time in history, 117 countries are jointly
to provide comprehensive protection to and conserve a shared
heritage of 170 species of waterbirds.
The "eagle post" is being organised
by Arnulf Müller-Helmbrecht, the head of the Convention
Secretariat, whose headquarters are in Bonn. He sees the
forthcoming Conference as a milestone for international
cooperation for the maintenance of the natural components
of life of the current as well as future generations of
mankind. Migratory species are classic indicators of the
wider ranging interdependency of eco-systems, which up to
now have benefited far too little from international cooperation.
For further information, please see also
telemetry aids research into white storks