Eagles have long been used to control Spain’s fauna and ecosystems, but now the predatory animal is being used to patrol against an entirely different threat: drones.
“Eagles which have been raised by hand in captivity are fundamental to maintaining a balance in our environment,” naturalist and trainer, Jesús Gómez, 53, told Spanish daily El Mundo.
“But the world is advancing at such a pace that they have to adapt to new threats.”
And by “new threats” Gómez means drones.
After hearing about an initiative used by the Dutch police called Guard From Above (see video,above), which used birds to patrol the skies against drones, Gómez bought a drone and began training his eagles.
“With the help of a couple of accredited drone pilots I started the training,” he said.
And the results were better than he could have hoped for.
“Within about two months the birds knew how to capture the drone and put it on the ground.”
And the drone-beating birds have become so successful that, according to reports in the Spanish press, even the Royal Family are thinking about using them to patrol the skies over their official residence, the Zarzuela Palace, which were infiltrated by drones in July 2015.
The Royal Guard did not manage to capture any of the drones and to this day mystery surrounds where they came from and who was operating them.
Training the eagles is no easy process: Gómez tempts them with a reward, which at the beginning is placed inside the drone and, as the bird begins to learn the process, is handed to him after he has managed to retrieve and get rid of the flying machine.
“They know they cannot eat the drone, but knows that behind its capture is a reward,” said Gómez.
“After about 15 or 20 tries the eagle learns that it is simply a game.”
But what is a simple game for Gómez’ eagles could be integral to protecting the skies above Spain’s Royal Family.