Every Mexican child knows the story by heart; native Mexicans followed the instructions of their god Huitzilopoztli to settle in the place where they saw an eagle battling a snake. That eagle, present on the every Mexican icon, such as the flag and the national coat of arms, is a golden eagle (Aguila real, in Mexican Spanish).
The Aquila Crysaetos, or Mexican Golden Eagle, its considered an endangered species in its own country. This huge bird, with a registered wingspan of 230 cm (90 1/2 in), has lost ground to a changing environment, mostly due to extensive mining in the mountains where it typically nests.
There’s a government funded program to conserve the species, the Program for Species Conservation (PACE), which so far has not reportedly been successful. Registered sightings of the golden eagle in Mexico are at a historic low of around 300, out of 38,000 sightings across North America.
There are a total of 101 reproductive couples, a number way below the calculated 10,000 in the United States alone. The golden eagle mates for life.
One factor is the lack of safety measures on electrical installations. “Electric towers and lines lack insulation or measures to avoid electrocution when the birds sit on them," says Luis Felipe Lozano, a biologist from Aguascalientes Autonomous University, and PACE coordinator.
“If we don't invest and develop effective strategies, the golden eagle, our national symbol, will become extinct. That is a real danger,” declared Lozano, who believes this could happen as soon as the next decade.
The biologist sees some hope in a program similar to the one the US passed in the 60's to protect their population of bald eagle, “We must conserve them in their natural habitat,” he urged.