If you are ever lucky enough to see a wedge-tailed eagle in flight, you are in for a truly awe-inspiring treat. These magnificent birds are the largest bird of prey in Australia, with a wing span of up to 2.5 meters. They soar over open country, circling up hundreds of meters on thermal currents. Then they float on the air, their tails fanned and diamond-shaped.
Humanity’s relationship with these birds has not been as awesome as we might hope though. For years, farmers believed (wrongly) that eagles were killing their lambs, and a price was put on their heads. In one year, Queensland farmers killed 10,000 eagles. Western Australia alone paid bounties on 150,000 eagles between 1927 and 1968. Today, they are a protected species, meaning that people can no longer shoot them.
But it is still legal to capture them, rob them of their natural freedom, and train them to perform for tourists. This week, Nonami, a 7-year-old eagle who has been in captivity all her life, deviated from the routine that Taronga Zoo had taught her. She was supposed to “fly from a substantial height, swooping down over the heads of the crowd to land on centre stage and display her massive two-metre wings”. Instead, she landed on the head of a toddler, leaving him with a gash on his forehead that required hospital treatment. The zoo has apologized to the child’s family and announced that Nonami will not be destroyed, but “will never be flown in public again.”
But nobody at the zoo has apologized to Nonami. She has been in captivity all her life, used in school education classes and television commercials before she was given to the zoo three years ago. Now she will sit in a cage for the rest of her life instead of soaring over the countryside. No animal deserves to be locked up for his or her whole life, just to amuse some bored tourists and make a few dollars for unscrupulous operators. Please, pledge never to support zoos or other animal “entertainment” acts.
Posted by Jason Baker