Rare African Owl Spotted For The First Time In 150+ Years

Jan 28, 2022by Olivia - F&F

Since being catalogued back in 1872, the elusive Shelley’s Eagle Owl hasn’t been spotted within African rainforests in over 150 years — until now!

Duo Of Scientists Snapped A Rare Photo Of The Shelley’s Eagle Owl

Dr Joseph Tobias — from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, and Dr Robert Williams — a freelance ecologist from Somerset — recently stumbled upon one of the rarest animal species on Earth. On October 16th, the duo was lucky enough to spot and snap a photo of the elusive Shelley’s Eagle Owl. There haven’t been any confirmed sightings of the owl since the 1870s! 

The scientists were walking through Atewa Forest in Ghana, when they noticed a large owl perched on a low branch. “It was so large, at first we thought it was an eagle. 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,” Dr. Joseph Tobias in a press release.

Shelley's Eagle Owl IllustrationShelley's Eagle Owl Illustration

“Sensational Discovery” | Why Is Shelley’s Eagle Owl So Rare?

Throughout Africa, it’s estimated that there are only a few thousand Shelley’s Eagle Owls remaining in the wild. The rare species is officially classed as vulnerable to extinction. That’s why this discovery is so exciting, especially for researchers!

Very few glimpses of the owl have ever occurred, and this is certainly the first photo ever taken of Shelley’s Eagle Owl. The duo said they only spotted the owl for a few seconds, but luckily, they managed to take a photo of the large, grey owl.  

“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 the Eastern Region is a huge surprise,” said Dr. Nathaniel Annorbah.

Atewa Forest GhanaAtewa Forest Ghana

Scientists Hope The Discovery Will Protect Ghana’s Atewa Forest 

The individual Shelley’s Eagle Owl was spotted in Atewa Forest, which is located in North-Eastern Ghana. Atewa Forest is teeming with flora and fauna. It’s home to more than 1,000 plant species, 230 bird species, 570 butterfly species, and around 50 mammal species. Four of these species are listed as Critically Endangered, five are potentially endemic to the area, and many more are Vulnerable. 

“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,” said Dr Williams.

Atewa Forest Water For GhanaiansAtewa Forest Water For Ghanaians

Mining Poses A Risk To Atewa Forest & Its Biodiversity

Atewa Forest is a global hotspot for precious wildlife, but it also provides a source of clean drinking water for more than 5 million Ghanaians. The Key Biodiversity Area has been named as one of the 38 most important places on Earth for nature and biodiversity! 

Unfortunately, there is a growing risk of Atewa Forest being mined for its Aluminium, which is known as bauxite mining. There’s a strong community-led resistance growing in Ghana. Environmental groups, like Friends of Atewa, are lobbying for the area to be designated as a national park, which would provide stronger protections for the forest. 

We hope the sighting of Shelley’s Eagle Owl in Atewa Forest boosts public awareness of this global biodiversity hotspot.

The rare and elusive Shelley’s Eagle Owl has finally been snapped after more than 150 years. What an amazing discovery! To help protect Atewa Forest from bauxite mining, please sign this petition to transform Atewa Forest into a National Park

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