Owl unseen for 150 years has been photographed within the wild for the primary time


Shelley’s Eagle Owl. Credit: Dr. Robert Williams / Imperial College London

British scientists working in Ghana have rediscovered a “holy grail” big owl that has lurked virtually unseen in African rainforests for 150 years.

Shelley’s Eagle Owl was noticed by Dr. Joseph Tobias, from the Department of Life Sciences (Silwood Park) at Imperial College London and chief of a UK-government funded subject mission learning organic impacts of agricultural improvement in Africa, and Dr. Robert Williams, a contract ecologist from Somerset.

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The chook was first described in 1872 from a specimen obtained from a neighborhood hunter in Ghana by Richard Bowdler Sharpe, curator of the chook assortment on the Natural History Museum in London and founding father of the British Ornithologists’ Club.

There have been no confirmed sightings from Ghana for the reason that 1870s, and only a few glimpses elsewhere. The solely pictures in existence had been grainy pictures taken in 1975 of a captive particular person behind bars at Antwerp Zoo and a pixelated blob from Congo in 2005 that isn’t definitely the fitting species.

There have been occasional experiences over current a long time from individuals believing they’ve heard or briefly seen Shelley’s Eagle Owl from a number of completely different localities throughout West and Central Africa from Liberia to Angola. Most of those sightings are unconfirmed, and the species has change into a holy grail for birdwatchers in Africa and past.

Large and distinctive

This all modified on 16 October 2021 when Dr. Tobias and Dr. Williams visited Atewa forest in Ghana and disturbed an enormous chook from its daytime roost. “It was so large, at first we thought it was an eagle,” Dr. Tobias stated. “Luckily it perched on a low branch and when we lifted our binoculars our jaws dropped. There is no other owl in Africa’s rainforests that big.”

The pair solely noticed the chook perched for 10-15 seconds however in that point managed to take pictures that affirm the identification on account of its distinctive black eyes, yellow invoice, and large measurement, which together rule out all different African forest owls.

The reality {that a} predator of such huge measurement had change into primarily invisible over a big swath of Africa fueled hypothesis as to its present whereabouts and causes for its obvious rarity.

Dr. Nathaniel Annorbah of University of Environment and Sustainable Development, Ghana, stated, “This is a sensational discovery. We’ve been searching for this mysterious bird for years in the western lowlands, so to find it here in ridgetop forests of Eastern Region is a huge surprise.”

New hope

Shelley’s Eagle Owl is formally labeled as weak to extinction with an estimated inhabitants of some thousand people. The information of its continued survival in Ghana provides new hope for the species.

Although the Atewa website is threatened by unlawful logging and bauxite mining, increased elevations nonetheless assist giant areas of evergreen forest. Environmental teams, such because the Friends of Atewa, are lobbying for the realm to be designated as a nationwide park.

Dr. Williams stated, “We hope this sighting draws attention to Atewa forest and its importance for conserving local biodiversity. Hopefully, the discovery of such a rare and magnificent owl will boost these efforts to save one of the last wild forests in Ghana.”

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Owl unseen for 150 years has been photographed within the wild for the primary time (2021, October 21)
retrieved 21 October 2021
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