CONICET researcher was awarded the Green Oscar

José Sarasola received the Whitley Award for his contributions to the conservation of the Chaco eagle

On May 1st, at the Royal Geographical Society of London, José Hernán Sarasola received the Whitley Award –aka Green Oscar– from Princess Anne and the Whitley Fund. The prize was awarded for his work on the conservation of the Chaco eagle (Buteogallus coronatus), which is currently in danger of extinction. José Sarasola is a CONICET independent researcher at the Institute for Earth and Environmental Sciences of La Pampa (INCITAP, CONICET-UNLPAM) and director of the Center for the Study and Conservation of Birds of Prey in Argentina (CECARA).

The Chaco eagle’s wingspan is about 1.8 meters and has an average weight close to 3 kilos –what makes it one of the largest raptors in the region– and is known by its pale grey color. Although this is a representative bird from semiarid environments of Argentina, the number of adult individuals of these species currently alive is less than a thousand and is decreasing.

For Sarasola, the only threat for the eagle is not the illegal hunting. His studies indicated that about 70% of the deaths occur by electrocutions in power lines and drowning in water tanks. To handle this problem, power lines were modified as well as the installation of rescue ramps in 60 water tanks, what managed to reduce half of the deaths of wildlife by drowning –more than 50 species, some endangered, have been found dead in those tanks–without drowned eagles being recorded.

In addition to his work to better understand the problems of the raptors and the Chaco eagle in particular, the researcher conducts campaigns in the community to raise awareness about the fact that this bird does not feed on livestock.

“Due to its great size, it is a common mistake to attribute the Chaco eagle with predation. Demonstrating to local farmers that this is not the case is vital to contribute to the protection of these species”, Sarasola explains.

As regards the meaning of this prize, the researcher stated: “The Whitley Award is undoubtedly the most important prize in the area of conservation. For this reason it is also known as the Green Oscar. It was a great honor to be recognized for our studies and encouragement to continue working.”

This year, the Whitley Gold Award was for professor Jon Paul Rodríguez, who cofounded the NGO Provita 30 years ago to preserve endangered fauna in Venezuela. For more information about the awards click here.