HELICON - Conservation of imperial eagles by managing human-eagle conflicts in Hungary

LIFE10 NAT/HU/000019

Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version  

Contact details:

Contact person: Márton HORVÁTH
Fax: +36 1 2756267
Email: horvath.marton@mme.hu

Project description:


The eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) is a globally threatened Eurasian bird species, with a world population of only a few thousand breeding pairs. Hungary is home to the largest population in the EU – in 2010, 62% of the species was found in the country, including 117 nesting pairs. Since the 1980s, the population has been slowly increasing in Hungary, but this small population is still vulnerable due to the limited number and quality of available habitats.

The conservation status of the imperial eagle in Hungary is seriously threatened by the exponential increase in deliberate killings: poisoning began in 2005 and shooting is also a problem. A total of 54 imperial eagles are believed to have been killed in the past few years – 23.1% of the national and 14.2% of the EU breeding population in 2010. Such killings threaten to reverse the positive population trend of the imperial eagle in Hungary and in neighbouring countries.


The main objective of the HELICON project was to improve the conservation status of the eastern imperial eagle population in Hungary by significantly reducing non-natural deaths caused by persecution incidents.

The project specifically aimed to decrease the direct negative effects of persecution incidents on the Hungarian imperial eagle population by setting up a veterinary system and best-practice protocol, satellite tracking, nest guarding at key Natura 2000 network sites (SPAs), providing safe feeding places and constructing artificial nests.

HELICON also proposed to increase the chances of detecting illegal activities and imposing criminal sentences by conducting field surveys, setting up a hotline, creating a bird-crime database, establishing a protocol for investigating incidents, setting up an anti-bird-crime action group and educating stakeholders.

The project was designed to increase stakeholder awareness of the overestimated impact of raptor species on game populations and of alternative eagle-friendly game management methods.

Another aim was to increase public awareness of the importance of imperial eagle conservation and of the possible consequences of persecution incidents.


The HELICON project successfully met its objectives and ultimately maintained a steady growth of the eastern imperial eagle population in Hungary. While the national population of the imperial eagle was stable at the beginning of the project between 2012 and 2014, it showed a significant (36%) increase by 2015-2016, reaching 205 occupied nests in 2016.

Cases of poisoning were detected and prosecuted more effectively, while the annual number of detected bird crime incidents fell by an average of 37% in the last three years of the project. This was achieved by laying a firm basis for anti-poisoning activities by creating protocols, a working group and the first anti-poison dog unit in the region. The project purchased 10 farmyards (total area 5.35 hectares) and transformed them into optimal breeding environments for imperial eagles through game and eagle-friendly habitat management.

A visitor centre was set up as the main facility for sustained project actions. The centre hosts exhibitions for the general public and serves as a scientific centre for conservationists working in the region. It also acts as a regional refuge for injured strictly protected species.

Helped by the popularity of the topic, the project made a substantial number of people in Hungary and abroad more aware of the imperial eagle, bird crimes - including deliberate poisoning, and the related conservation challenges. HELICON attracted nearly half a million unique visitors to its website.

The project drafted a conservation management plan of the sample area and this was approved by the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture. It also set up and trained a highly valuable anti-poisoning network of stakeholders, which includes conservationists, hunters, veterinarians, farmers, police, prosecutors and judges.

HELICON established the first multi-partner collaboration and the first field dog unit for Central Europe to detect, investigate and mitigate wildlife crime, particularly illegal poisoning.

The project showed the benefits of eagle and small game-friendly habitat management to hunters, who are a key stakeholder group in the illegal poisoning issue. It also demonstrated to farmers that the best practices of eagle and small game-friendly habitat management can bring in EU rural agri-environmental funding, as an alternative to direct agricultural payments in less productive agricultural areas.

The project was highly relevant to the implementation of the Birds and Habitat Directives and agri-environmental schemes, as the project’s conservation management aimed to improve the conservation status of Natura 2000 habitats and that of the eastern Imperial eagle.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


endangered species‚  protected area‚  restoration measure‚  conflicting use

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • Directive 2009/147 - Conservation of wild birds - Birds Directive (codified version of Directive ...
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...

Target species

 Aquila heliaca     

Natura 2000 sites

SPA HUBN10002 Borsodi-sík
SPA HUBN10003 Bükk-hegység és peremterületei
SPA HUBN10004 Hevesi-sík
SPA HUBN10006 Mátra
SPA HUBN10007 Zempléni-hegység a Szerencsi-dombsággal és a Hernád-völggyel
SPA HUDI10003 Gerecse
SPA HUDI10004 Jászkarajenői puszták
SCI HUDI30001 Vértes
SPA HUFH10001 Fertő tó
SPA HUFH10004 Mosoni-sík
SCI HUFH30005 Hanság
SPA HUHN10002 Hortobágy
SPA HUHN10003 Bihar
SPA HUHN10004 Közép-Tisza
SPA HUHN10005 Jászság
SPA HUKM10001 Kígyósi-puszta
SPA HUKM10003 Dévaványai-sík
SPA HUKM10004 Hódmezővásárhely környéki és csanádi-háti puszták
SPA HUKM10005 Cserebökényi-puszták
SPA HUKN10007 Alsó-Tisza-völgy
SCI HUAN20004 Hernád-völgy és Sajóládi-erdő
SCI HUAN20006 Sajó-völgy
SCI HUBN20001 Bükk-fennsík és a Lök-völgy
SCI HUBN20009 Tard környéki erdőssztyepp
SCI HUBN20010 Szomolyai Kaptár-rét
SCI HUBN20017 Borsodbótai Kotyindó-tető
SCI HUBN20018 Upponyi-szoros
SCI HUBN20025 Nagybarcai Liget-hegy és sajóvelezdi Égett-hegy
SCI HUBN20034 Borsodi-Mezőség
SCI HUBN20035 Poroszlói szikesek
SCI HUBN20037 Nagy-Hanyi
SCI HUBN20039 Pusztafogacs
SCI HUBN20041 Pélyi szikesek
SCI HUBN20044 Recski Hegyes-hegy
SCI HUBN20047 Mátra északi letörése
SCI HUBN20051 Nyugat-Mátra
SCI HUBN20068 Sajómercsei Körtvélyes-dűlő
SCI HUBN20073 Bodrogszegi Várhegy
SCI HUBN20074 Tállyai Patócs-hegy - Sátor-hegy
SCI HUBN20077 Erdőbényei - olaszliszkai magyar nőszirmos sztyepprétek
SCI HUBN20082 Felsőregmeci Ronyva
SCI HUBN20084 Központi-Zempléni-hegység
SCI HUBN20085 Északi-Zempléni-hegység
SCI HUBN20087 Baskói rétek
SCI HUBN20090 Komlóskai Mogyorós-tető és Zsidó-rét
SCI HUBN20092 Telkibányai Király-hegy
SCI HUBN20093 Bózsvai Temető alja
SCI HUDI20015 Déli-Gerecse
SCI HUDI20030 Központi-Gerecse
SCI HUHN20003 Tisza-tó
SCI HUHN20070 Darvasi Csiff-puszta
SCI HUHN20076 Borsóhalmi-legelő
SCI HUHN20093 Kaba-földesi gyepek
SCI HUHN20098 Dél-ásványi gyepek
SCI HUHN20100 Gatály
SCI HUHN20103 Berekböszörmény - körmösdpusztai legelők
SCI HUHN20105 Csökmői gyepek
SCI HUKM20003 T-erdő
SCI HUKM20004 Száraz-ér
SCI HUKM20010 Gyula-szabadkígyósi gyepek
SCI HUKM20015 Hortobágy-Berettyó
SCI HUKM20019 Dél-Bihari szikesek
SCI HUKM20027 Cserebökény
SCI HUKM20028 Tőkei gyepek
SCI HUKM20030 Lapistó-Fertő
SCI HUKM20031 Kurca
SCI HUDI20020 Gerecse
SCI HUFH20002 Fertő tó
SCI HUHN20002 Hortobágy
SCI HUHN20015 Közép-Tisza



Coordinator MME BirdLife Hungary
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description MME BirdLife Hungary (Hungarian Ornithological and Nature Conservation Society) is a private, non-commercial body, founded in 1974 to protect birds and their natural environment. Since then, its activities have expanded from surveys to active conservation work and nature conservation lobbying. In 2010 it had more than 25 000 members (9 768 active in 32 local groups). The organisation focuses mainly on protecting birds of prey, bird ringing, migration, protecting reptiles and amphibians, species protection programmes, habitat protection projects and education. MME has coordinated the monitoring and conservation of the imperial eagle in Hungary since its foundation and it is also the coordinator of the International Imperial Eagle Working Group (1990).
Partners Hortobágy National Park Directorate, Hungary Körös-Maros National Park Directorate, Hungary Bükk National Park Directorate, Hungary Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden, Hungary Zoological Park and Botanical Garden of Jászberény, Hungary Hungarian Hunters’ National Chamber, Hungary Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation, Hungary FILMJUNGLE.EU Society, Hungary


Project reference LIFE10 NAT/HU/000019
Duration 01-JAN-2012 to 31-DEC -2016
Total budget 2,141,597.00 €
EU contribution 1,606,198.00 €
Project location Kozep-Dunantul(Hungary Magyarország) Nyugat-Dunantul(Hungary Magyarország) Eszak-Magyarorszag(Hungary Magyarország) Eszak-Alfold(Hungary Magyarország) Del-Alfold(Hungary Magyarország)


Read more:

Brochure "A Magas Természeti Értékü Területek Támogatási Lehetöségei: Tájékoztató Füzet Gazdálkodóknak" (2.24 MB)
Leaflet "A parlagi sasok védelme a Jászság Különleges Madá ...
Poster "Madárbarát Gazdálkodás: gyepen, erdön, halastavon ...
Poster "A sasbarát Magyarországért = For an eagle-friendl ...
Project web site Project's website
Project web site - 2 Project's Facebook page
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan (Hungarian version)
Publication: Case study "Ragadozómadarak mérgezése és védelme Magyarország ...
Publication: Case study "JAVASLAT: a JÁSZSÁG Magas Természeti Értékű Terül ...
Publication: Case study "A Jászság SPA fenntartási tervénekrészvételi terv ...
Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Terepi madárhatározó vadgazdálkodóknak" (4.37 MB)
Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Anti-poisoning working group of the Hungarian rap ...
Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Anti-poisoning working group of the Hungarian rap ...
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Pedagogical tool "Jászság Kerékpáros Tanösvény = Jászság Bicycle Na ...
Publication: Pedagogical tool "Jászság - a parlagi sasok birodalma = Jászság - K ...
Publication: Research findings "Az apróvad állomány és a ragadozógazdálkodás hely ...
Publication: Technical report "Módszertani tanulmány „A parlagi sas védelme Magy ...
Publication: Technical report "Zárójelentés: Készült „A parlagi sas védelme Magy ...
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report
Publication: Technical report "A JÁSZSÁG különleges madárvédelmi terület (HUHN10 ...
Publication: Technical report "Módszertani tanulmány „A parlagi sas védelme Magy ...
Slides Presentation "Fight against the illegal poisoning of predators ...


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version