Proud symbolic bird

by Melanie Taylor

Finally! (Issue I/2020)


A harpy. Illustration: Shutterstock

The harpy eagle's name comes from ancient Greek and means "ripper". The mighty bird of prey impresses with its majestic appearance, not to mention its wingspan which reaches up to 2.24 metres. The harpy eagle has no natural enemies, but humans have practically exterminated it by destroying the rainforests.

Panama is one of the few countries in Central America where the birds can still be found. There they are protected in the Harpy Center in Parque Summit. In 2002 it was declared the national bird of Panama. But back in 1903, when Panama separated from Colombia, the harpy eagle had already starred on its national emblem. On the coat of arms, it is depicted looking to the left with a ribbon in its beak, which reads "Pro Mundi Beneficio" ("For the prosperity of the world"), which refers to Panama's location as a bridge - not only for the transfer of goods worldwide, but also as a Central American land-link for both humans and animals.

The bird symbolises national sovereignty, something which the country had to fight for several times, in disputes with Spain, Gran Colombia and the United States. In June 2019, a young female harpy eagle was stolen from the Parque Summit. In a country that is fighting back against corruption, and striving for social justice, its removal was viewed as the theft of state-owned resources, dealing a blow to its sense of sovereignty.

Translated from Spanish by Gabriela Pflügler

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