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The problem of raptor electrocution in Asia: Case studies from Mongolia and China


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We report a large number of raptors electrocuted on recently erected electricity distribution lines in the open landscapes of the Mongolian steppe and Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, China. Upland Buzzards Buteo hemilasius and Saker Falcons Falco cherrug, characteristic raptors of these bioregions, were among those found to be electrocuted. Raptor electrocution was a consequence of poorly designed hardware configurations on anchor poles along surveyed lines on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and, additionally, on line poles in the Mongolian steppe. The design flaws were upright pin-insulators on earthed crossarms and the use of jump wires that passed over crossarms via pin insulators on anchor poles. Targeted mitigation of anchor poles could significantly reduce the incidence of electrocution on the lines surveyed on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, whilst all poles on the lines surveyed in the Mongolian steppe require remediation to make them safe for raptors. The Mongolian steppe and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau are bioregions that hold the largest breeding and wintering populations of the globally threatened Saker Falcon. The existing and growing network of dangerous electricity distribution lines in these regions may potentially impact the Saker Falcon population, thus we suggest that preventative and/or mitigation measures are implemented.
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Bird Conservation International (2013) 23:520529. © BirdLife International, 2013
The problem of raptor electrocution in Asia:
case studies from Mongolia and China
We report a large number of raptors electrocuted on recently erected electricity distribution lines in
the open landscapes of the Mongolian steppe and Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, China. Upland Buzzards
Buteo hemilasius and Saker Falcons Falco cherrug , characteristic raptors of these bioregions, were
among those found to be electrocuted. Raptor electrocution was a consequence of poorly designed
hardware configurations on anchor poles along surveyed lines on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and,
additionally, on line poles in the Mongolian steppe. The design flaws were upright pin-insulators
on earthed crossarms and the use of jump wires that passed over crossarms via pin insulators on
anchor poles. Targeted mitigation of anchor poles could significantly reduce the incidence of electro-
cution on the lines surveyed on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, whilst all poles on the lines sur-
veyed in the Mongolian steppe require remediation to make them safe for raptors. The Mongolian
steppe and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau are bioregions that hold the largest breeding and wintering
populations of the globally threatened Saker Falcon. The existing and growing network of danger-
ous electricity distribution lines in these regions may potentially impact the Saker Falcon popula-
tion, thus we suggest that preventative and/or mitigation measures are implemented.
Rapid global industrialisation over the last century has resulted in the development of vast net-
works of power distribution lines on all continents except Antarctica. The provision of electricity
is integral to the economic and social development of every country and the health and social
well-being of communities can be improved once they are connected to a reliable electricity sup-
ply (Chaurey et al. 2004 ), whilst the developed world has come to rely on an electricity supply for
everyday existence. Given the importance of electricity for modern human society, the network
of power distribution lines will continue to grow, especially in Asia and Africa.
Transmission lines, carrying electricity from a generation source, form the basis of an electric-
ity grid and from this a network of distribution lines carry the electricity to places where it is
needed. Transformers reduce the voltage between the transmission and distribution lines, and the
distribution network carries a medium-voltage supply (generally 3 to 60 kV; APLIC 2006 ). Because
the voltage is lower, the amount of insulation required is less than for transmission lines, which
means that the energised conductor wires are closer to the crossarm from which they are sus-
pended. Consequently, the proximity of the energized conductors to the line hardware and/or
other phase conductors means that large birds, such as raptors, can become electrocuted by simul-
taneously contacting two phases, by contacting a single phase if their perching site is earthed or
by arcing from a phase to an earthed, perched bird (Prinsen et al. 2011a ).
Electrocution of birds on medium voltage electricity distribution lines is a widespread problem
that has existed since power distribution lines were first erected in the late 19th century
Raptor electrocution in Mongolia and China 521
(Lehman et al. 1999 ). The problem has been recognized internationally and in North America and
Europe steps have been taken to improve the safety of distribution lines (see references in APLIC
2006 , Prinsen et al. 2011a , b ), but the sheer scale of the electricity distribution network and the
extent of mitigation required, mean that thousands of kilometres of power lines still pose an elec-
trocution risk to birds. In Asia and Africa, the electricity distribution network is growing rapidly
(Foster and Briceño-Garmendia 2010 , Hammons 2011 ) and raptor electrocution is likely to be an
increasing problem in these regions (Bevanger 1998 , Boshoff et al. 2011 , Angelov et al. 2013 ).
Relatively little information exists on raptor electrocution in Asia, though it is known to be
responsible for high levels of raptor mortality in Kazakhstan (Lasch et al. 2010 ) and Asiatic Russia
(Saltykov 2012 ). In recent years, studies have been undertaken in Mongolia to identify and high-
light the problem of raptor electrocution (e.g. Gombobaatar et al. 2004 , Harness et al. 2008 , 2010 ,
Amartuvshin and Gombobaatar 2012 ), where the problem is associated primarily with specific
poles with complex wiring at junction points on older distribution lines with wooden poles, and
more importantly, with recently installed lines using concrete poles and hardware manufactured
in China (Dixon 2010 ), suggesting that the problem is likely to be widespread in China too. Little
information exists on the scale or extent of raptor electrocution in China, but the problem has been
documented in western China (Mei et al. 2008 ).
In this paper we report on raptor electrocutions at electricity distribution lines in two Mongolian
provinces and in Qinghai, China. We describe the species found electrocuted on these lines at dif-
ferent times of year, electrocution events in relation to pole design and the efficacy of pre-existing
mitigation measures. We suggest further mitigation for these lines and discuss the potential impact
that electrocution may have on the globally threatened Saker Falcon Falco cherrug in these two
remaining global strongholds for the species.
We undertook opportunistic surveys of electricity distribution lines in Mongolia and China dur-
ing fieldwork for Saker Falcon conservation and management projects. The lines were selected for
survey because carcasses of dead raptors were noted below poles; they do not represent a random
selection of power distribution lines. We conducted whole line surveys rather than segmental
surveys along each line.
Line searches in Mongolia
In Sukhbaatar Province we undertook three searches along a three-phase, 15 kV electricity
distribution line running 56 km from the district centre of Uulbayan to the district centre of
Monkhkhaan: spring (12-13 May 2009), autumn (7 September 2011) and winter (8 March 2012).
The line was constructed in 2004 and crosses open, undulating and treeless landscape in the
central Mongolian steppe with few potential above-ground perching sites for raptors. All poles
were constructed of reinforced concrete and the line comprised 493 standard ‘line’ poles and 35
‘anchor’ poles ( Figure 1b, c & d ). This line has been surveyed previously for electrocuted rap-
tors in 2007 and 2009 (Harness et al. 2008 , 2010 ) and a number of poles had been fitted with
two or four perch-deterrent spikes in an attempt to reduce electrocution risk for birds of prey.
The placement of these spikes differed in that when only two were used they were placed cen-
trally on the crossarm but when four were used the outermost spikes were closer to the phase
wire ( Figure 1e & f ). We have termed these two configurations as non-functional and functional
respectively, because spikes placed centrally cannot prevent birds from perching next to the phases
at the ends of the crossarms.
In Dundgovi Province, we undertook a single search along a three-phase, 15 kV distribution
line running 71 km from the district centre of Olziit to the district centre of Khuld on 11 June 2010.
The line was erected in 2006 and crosses open, undulating and treeless landscape in the central
Mongolian steppe. The Olziit-Khuld line comprised 629 poles and most had been fitted with two
A. Dixon et al. 522
Figures 1a-h. A: line pole with pin insulators for each phase, Qinghai, China; Upland Buzzard
perched on central 1
st phase pin insulator. B: line pole with pin insulators for each phase, Sukhbaatar
Province, Mongolia; Saker Falcon electrocuted at 1st phase pin insulator. C: anchor pole with
strain insulators and one jump wire over the crossarm on the central 1
st phase, Qinghai, China.
D: anchor pole with strain insulators and jump wires over the crossarm on all three phases,
Sukhbaatar Province, Mongolia; Saker Falcon electrocuted at 3
rd phase jump wire on crossarm.
E: line pole fitted with two centrally-positioned, non-functional perch-deterrent spikes; Sukhbataar
Province, Mongolia. F: line pole fitted with four, functional perch-deterrent spikes; Sukhbataar
Province, Mongolia. G: line pole with centrally positioned perch deterrent device, Dornogovi Province,
Mongolia; Common Kestrel perched on crossarm. H: anchor pole at a line deviation point requir-
ing two braced crossarms and jump wires, Qinghai, China; electrocuted Saker Falcon next to
a pin insulator.
Raptor electrocution in Mongolia and China 523
perch-deterrent devices placed centrally on the crossarm ( Figure 1g ). On 13 June 2010, a single
search was made along a 14-km stretch of a three-phase, 6 kV distribution line running from the
district centre of Adaatsag to the settlement of Sum Khokh Burd. This line was constructed in
2004 and comprised 133 poles; there were no perch deterrents fitted to the crossarms on this line.
Line searches in Qinghai, China
In Maduo County, Qinghai, we searched the entire lengths of two 10 kV electricity distribu-
tion lines running from an electricity substation at Madoi to the village of Huangheyaun on
2021 June 2007 (summer survey) and from a substation at Huashixia to a coal mine near
Miancaowan on 14 January 2008 (winter survey). Both lines travelled over open, undulating and
treeless landscapes on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Poles and hardware were similar to the
Mongolian lines above, except that the upright pin insulators were taller than those used on the
Mongolian lines ( Figure 1a ). Also, some deviation angles on the line required the use of two dou-
ble braced crossarms on a single pole with jump wires passing from one to the other for all three
phases ( Figure 1h ). The 16 km Madoi-Huangheyuan distribution line comprised 200 line poles
and 19 anchor poles, whilst the 17 km Huashixia-Miancaowan distribution line comprised 239 line
poles and 17 anchor poles.
Data collection
During each line search, we checked the base of all electricity poles once for carcasses and feather
remains of birds. Many carcasses showed obvious signs of electrocution with burn marks on the
feet, legs and feathers. We assumed that all carcasses found below poles had died from electrocu-
tion and we found no evidence of any other alternative cause of death. We made an assessment of
the how long the carcasses had lain on the ground from the state of decomposition or the condi-
tion of the feather remains if the carcass had been removed. In Mongolia, from May to September,
carcass decomposition by scavenging beetles was very rapid, with most of the flesh removed from
the body of medium-sized raptors such as Saker Falcons and Upland Buzzards Buteo hemilasius
within a few days (A. Dixon pers. obs.). We considered whole carcasses with feathers in good
condition but where the body flesh had been eaten by beetles as recent electrocution events
(< 1 month old) when the ground under the carcass was stained dark brown by beetle excreta.
If there was no evidence of beetle excreta underneath such carcasses they were considered to be
> 1 month old. We were not able to determine removal rates of carcasses by scavengers during our
single-visit searches but in some cases we only found a large number (> 50) of fresh-looking
feathers that showed no obvious weathering, and in these circumstances we assumed that the bird
had been electrocuted within one month and the carcase had been removed by a scavenger.
For power lines surveyed in Sukhbaatar Province, Mongolia and in Qinghai, China we col-
lected data on the type of pole where we found electrocuted birds (i.e. anchor or line pole) and
whether or not the poles had been equipped with perch-deflector spikes. However, this infor-
mation was not recorded for the two lines surveyed in Dundgovi Province, Mongolia, thus we
were unable to examine electrocution in relation to pole type or the presence of perch deflec-
tors for these lines.
Data analysis
In our analysis, we have only included raptors that were assessed to have been electrocuted within
one month of our searches. We used a χ 2 test to compare electrocution events at poles with dif-
ferent hardware configurations and perch deterrents. We present data in terms of the number
of carcasses found, the number per 10 km of power line and per 100 poles, so that comparison
can be made between the different lines in our study and with other studies that report electrocu-
tion rates in these formats.
A. Dixon et al. 524
The opportunistic surveys reported here did not allow us to undertake the repeated visits neces-
sary to assess mortality rate estimates per unit of time. However, all carcasses were judged to be
less than one month old, thus the figures presented in Table 1 can be regarded as a broad estimate
of ‘monthly mortality rates’ at different seasons with the caveat that carcass age assessment is
subjective and that we do not have good measures of carcass removal rates.
Electrocution in Mongolia
During our spring search we found the remains of 41 raptors that had been electrocuted along the
Uulbayan-Monkhkhaan line ( Table 1 ). Species included Black Kite Milvus migrans , Common
Buzzard Buteo buteo and Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis , which are all migrants that do not
breed locally. In contrast, we only found one non-resident migratory species, a Greater Spotted
Eagle Aquila clanga , among 25 electrocuted raptors during our autumn search ( Table 2 ). We
found 45 electrocuted raptors of four resident species, during our winter search.
The number of remains found during the spring, autumn and winter totalled 7.3, 4.5 and 8.0
carcasses per 10 km respectively, though we do not know how many carcasses had been removed
by scavengers as some may have been removed without leaving feather remains. The proportion
of carcasses scavenged was much higher in winter, when 65% of carcasses had been removed leav-
ing only feather remains, compared to 5% and 4% in spring and autumn respectively.
Electrocuted raptors were found under both anchor and line poles ( Figure 2 ). Over the course
of three searches we recorded the frequency of electrocution events during 91 visits to anchor
poles that had jump wires over the crossarm on one ( n = 59) or three phases ( n = 32), and we
found that significantly more raptors were electrocuted on the latter (4.8% cf . 22.0%; χ 2 = 5.475,
df = 1, P = 0.02). Over the course of 1,465 visits to line poles fitted with none ( n = 817), non-
functional ( n = 240) and functional ( n = 408) perch-deterrent spikes, we found no significant
difference in the number of carcasses found at poles with no perch-deterrent spikes and those
with non-functional spikes placed centrally on the crossarm (7.7% cf . 10.8%; χ 2 = 1.958, df = 1,
P = 0.16), but there were significantly fewer carcasses at poles fitted with functional perch-deterrent
spikes (2.7%) than at those with none ( χ 2 = 11.19, df = 1, P < 0.001) and non-functional spikes
( χ 2 = 17.10, df = 1, P < 0.001) .
In Dundgovi Province, we found the carcasses of 23 raptors that had been electrocuted along the
Olziit-Khuld and Adaatsag-Sum Khokh Burd lines, 35% of which were non-resident species
( Table 2 ) .
Electrocution in China
On 2021 June 2007 (summer search), we found the carcasses of 27 electrocuted raptors along the
Madoi-Huangheyuan distribution line, comprising 23 Upland Buzzards, three Saker Falcons and
a Raven Corvus corax ( Table 3 ). We judged that these had died within a month, but we were
unable to estimate the rate of carcase removal by scavengers and/or power line workers. The
majority of electrocutions occurred at anchor poles and 63.2% (12/19) had electrocuted birds
Table 1. Summary of power lines surveyed in this study.
Country Province LINE NAME kV Length (km) Pole #
Mongolia Sukhbaatar Uulbayan-Monkhkhaan 15 56 528
Mongolia Dundgovi Olziit-Khuld 15 71 629
Mongolia Dundgovi Adaatsag-Sum Koch Burd 614 133
China Qinghai Madoi-Huangheyaun 10 16 219
China Qinghai Huashixia-Miancaowan 10 17 256
Raptor electrocution in Mongolia and China 525
Table 2. Raptor carcasses found along three electricity distribution lines in Mongolia. Searches were undertaken in spring, summer, autumn and winter. Species that breed in
the districts of the power lines are categorized as residents (R), whilst those with breeding populations outside the districts were categorised as migrants (M). All carcasses or
feather remains were judged to be < 1 month old.
Uulbayan-Monkhkhaan Olziit-Khuld Adaatsag-Sum
Khokh Burd
Spring Autumn Winter Summer Summer
R (%) M (%) R (%) M (%) R (%) M (%) R (%) M (%) R (%) M (%)
Black Kite Milvus migrans 02 (5)00 0 0 0
3 (18)01 (17)
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 0000000
2 (12)00
Cinereous Vulture Aegypus monachus 000000000
1 (17)
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos 3 (7)00012 (27)0000
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis 2 (5)00000000
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga 000
1 (5)00000
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 10 (24)02 (8)014 (31)0002 (33)0
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo 04 (10)00 0 0 00 0
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis 02 (5)00 0 0 00 0
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 0000000
1 (6)00
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2 (5)08 (29)00 0000
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug 7 (21)06 (16)07 (16)08 (47)01 (17)0
Little Owl Athene noctua 001 (3)000000
Raven Corvus corax 9 (22)07 (37)012 (27)00
1 (4)00
Carcasses n 33 8 24 1 45 0 10 7 5 1
41 25 45 17 6
Carcasses /10 km
Carcasses /100 poles
A. Dixon et al. 526
below, whilst only 0.5% (1/200) of line poles had an electrocuted bird below. On this line, the high
level of raptor electrocution events was attributable primarily to the presence of jump-wires over
the crossarm of anchor poles.
On 14 January 2008 (winter search), we found the fresh feather remains of at least 10 dif-
ferent raptors, comprising six Upland Buzzards, two Saker Falcons and two Eagle Owls Bubo bubo
and the whole, fresh carcass of a Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus , together with the older,
decomposed remains of a further 14 raptors (13 Upland Buzzards and a Saker Falcon) along the
Huashixia-Miancaowan distribution line ( Table 3 ). All remains, both recent and old, were found
below anchor poles with overhead jump wires and none were found below line poles.
Figure 2. Percentage of poles with electrocuted raptors on the Uulbayan-Monkhkhaan line in
Sukhbaatar Province, Mongolia. Values show the number of poles of each configuration on the
line. Anchor pole types are (i) one jump wire over the crossarm on the central phase and (ii) three
jump wires over the crossarm on all phases. Standard line pole types are crossarms with (i) no
perch deterrent spikes, (ii) non-functional perch deterrent spikes and (iii) functional perch deter-
rent spikes.
Table 3. Recent raptor remains (feathers or carcass) found below 10 kV electricity distribution lines during
surveys in summer (Madoi-Huangheyuan; 16 km, 219 poles) and winter (Huashixia-Miancaowan; 17 km,
256 poles) on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China.
Summer Survey Winter Survey
Feathers Carcass Feathers Carcass
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 023 (85%) 6 (55%) 0
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 00 01 (9%)
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug 03 (11%) 2 (18%) 0
Eagle Owl Bubo bubo 00 2 (18%) 0
Common Raven Corvus corax 01 (4%) 00
Carcasses n 27 11
Carcasses /10 km 16.96.5
Carcasses/100 poles 12.34.3
Raptor electrocution in Mongolia and China 527
The number and species of raptors electrocuted at a particular power line will reflect spatial and tem-
poral variation in the composition of the raptor community and the propensity for a particular species
to be electrocuted; larger species are at greater risk than smaller species and some taxa, such as harriers
Circus spp., are less likely to utilise power poles as perch sites (Bevanger 1998 , Lehman et al. 1999 ).
The composition of the raptor community in Mongolia was different in spring/summer when 25% of
electrocuted birds were non-resident migrants compared to autumn/winter, when such species com-
prised only 1% of the electrocuted birds. The higher frequency of feather remains in relation to whole
carcasses found during the winter searches contrasted with our summer searches in Mongolia and
China, indicating that carcass removal by scavengers varies at different times of year. The difference in
carcass scavenging rates during summer and winter makes it difficult for us to meaningfully compare
electrocution rates at different times of year. However, even though we lacked precise information on
the period over which the raptors were electrocuted, it was apparent that a large number of raptors are
electrocuted throughout the year at all the lines we surveyed. Despite the inherent limitations of
opportunistic line surveys there is a need for dissemination of electrocution data in order to inform
conservation management decisions relating to bird electrocution (Lehman et al. 2007 ).
Our line surveys in Qinghai revealed that anchor poles with jump wires over crossarms were espe-
cially dangerous for raptors, with few electrocution events recorded under line poles along the span of
the distribution lines. In contrast, we found many electrocuted birds below line poles along the span of
the Uulbayan-Monkkhaan line in Mongolia. In Qinghai, targeted mitigation focussed on anchor poles
could potentially eliminate most raptor electrocution events on the lines we surveyed, whereas in
Mongolia, even though anchor poles still killed disproportionately more raptors, such targeted mitiga-
tion would not reduce mortality levels to the same extent because many birds were killed at line poles,
thus measures to reduce raptor electrocution events are required for all poles along the surveyed lines.
The reason why line poles in Mongolia posed a greater risk than their counterparts on the sur-
veyed distribution lines in Qinghai is presumably related to differences in the configuration of the
pin insulators rather than differences in bird behaviour in the two regions. In Qinghai, the energised
cables were further from the metal crossarms and the top of the concrete pole than in Mongolia
because the ceramic insulators were taller and they were fixed using longer pins ( Figure 1a and b ).
Poles with perch deterrents placed in close proximity to the pin insulators on crossarms
(i.e. the functional four-spike configuration) had significantly fewer electrocutions at our surveyed
line in Sukhbaatar Province, Mongolia. This contradicts the findings of Harness et al. ( 2010 ) and
Amartuvshin and Gombobaatar ( 2012 ); the former reported no effect of perch deterrent spikes on the
same line, whilst the latter reported an increase in electrocution events with perch deterrents.
However, Harness et al. ( 2010 ) did not distinguish between functional deterrent spikes placed near
the insulators (four-spike configuration) and non-functional spikes placed centrally on the crossarm
(two-spike configuration), whilst the data analysis of Amartuvshin and Gombobaatar ( 2012 ) is erro-
neous as the correlation between number of dead raptors and the number of spikes did not take into
account the number of poles with different perch deterrent configurations. Aside from reconfiguring
the hardware to a safe design on line poles (examples in APLIC 2006 , Prinsen et al. 2011b ), potential
retrospective mitigation measures include fitting perch deterrents close to pin insulators on all cros-
sarms or fitting covers over the pin insulators and adjacent exposed areas of the phase conductors.
Pole design has been shown to be the main factor accounting for variation in electrocution
rates between power lines, and in order to maximise efficacy of remediation and optimise resource
allocation it is advisable to undertake predictive modelling to identify the most important poles
requiring mitigation (Tintó et al. 2010 ). In both Mongolia and China, jump wires over crossarms
on anchor poles were especially dangerous for raptors. Electrocution can occur through direct
contact with the energized jump wire ( Figures 1d & h ). Consequently, mitigation can simply
involve reconfiguration of the jump wires to pass under the crossarm, but if this is not possible
at all three phases, especially the central first phase, mitigation could involve insulating the
overhead jump wires and covering both the strain and pin insulators (examples in APLIC 2006 ,
A. Dixon et al. 528
Prinsen et al. 2011b ). However, insulation is best regarded as a temporary or complementary
solution to reconfiguration and can be costly to undertake and to maintain (Tintó et al. 2010 , Guil
et al. 2011 ). With regard to mitigation and reconfiguration costs, the use of poles with safe designs
at the outset is the most cost effective option when constructing new power distribution lines.
The globally threatened Saker Falcon is susceptible to electrocution on power distribution lines in
the open steppe and plateau landscapes of Mongolia and Qinghai. This was reflected by the temporal
stability in the number of Saker Falcons in our sample of electrocuted raptors obtained during different
seasons in Sukhbaatar Province, Mongolia and in Qinghai, China. In Sukhbaatar Province, Mongolia
there are five distribution lines (total 310 km) known to have a high frequency of raptor electrocutions
(S. Batkhuu pers. comm.). However, we do not know how many similar electricity distribution lines
exist in other parts of Mongolia and Qinghai, but it is evident that the number is increasing with
economic, industrial and social development. Consequently, mortality of Saker Falcons as a result of
electrocution is also likely to increase in these two globally important bioregions for the species. Further
work is required to determine if mortality rates due to electrocution have a significant impact on Saker
Falcon breeding populations in the Mongolian steppe and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.
This study was undertaken on behalf of and funded by the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi
(EAD). Surveys in Mongolia were conducted under a Memorandum of Understanding between
EAD, the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism (MNET) and International Wildlife
Consultants Ltd. We thank HE M. Al Bowardi for his support and interest in this study. The
following provided assistance in the field: C. Ashford, Batzul B., Hu B-W., Mei Y. and P. Stafford.
S. Batkhuu (Sukhbaatar branch of the Eastern Energy System, Mongolia) and Shi Y. (Qinghai
Electrical Power, China) provided background information on power distribution lines and raptor
electrocution in their respective regions.
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Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography , Chinese Academy of Sciences , 818 Beijing Road ,
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Wildlife Science and Conservation Center , Office 33 , Undram Plaza , Bayanzurkh District ,
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* Author for correspondence; e-mail:
Received 16 January 2013 ; revision accepted 10 May 2013 ;
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... Cumulative deaths from collisions with wind turbines (Gauthreaux, Besler, 2003) plus deaths from electrocution at power lines (Lehman et al., 2007;Prinsen et al., 2011;Карякин, 2012;Николенко, Карякин, 2012;Dixon et al., 2013;Loss et al., 2014;Guila, Pérez-García, 2022) plus delayed deaths caused by second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (Thomas et al., 2011;Rattner et al., 2014) present a more than redundant set of causes determining population declines, such as the Steppe Eagle. Therefore, in order to conserve rare species, a precautionary approach (Cooney 2004) is useful. ...
... Кумулятивная смертность в результате столкновения с ветрогенераторами (Gauthreaux, Besler, 2003) + смертность на ЛЭП в результате поражения электротоком (Lehman et al., 2007;Prinsen et al., 2011;Карякин, 2012;Николенко, Карякин, 2012;Dixon et al., 2013;Loss et al., 2014;Guila, Pérez-García, 2022) + отложенная смертность, вызванная антикоагулянтными родентицидами второго поколения (Thomas et al., 2011;Rattner et al., 2014) -и мы имеем более чем избыточный набор причин, определяющих сокращение численности популяций, например, того же степного орла. Поэтому в целях сохранения редких видов оправдан предупредительный подход (Cooney 2004), при котором минимизация, а лучше полное исключение смертности птиц должны требоваться от потенциально опасных отраслей и видов деятельности (Longcore, Smith, 2013) как на государственном уровне, так и на уровне самих компаний, беспокоящихся о своих рейтингах и репутационных рисках. ...
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On the basis of data obtained from ARGOS/GPS and GPS/GSM tracking of 34 eagles (4 Steppe Eagles (Aquila nipalensis) from Central KZ, 1 Steppe Eagle from Southern Ural region, 22 Steppe Eagles, 5 Eastern Imperial Eagles (Aquila heliaca) from the ASR and 2 Greater Spotted Eagles (Aquila clanga) from the from the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion), we have defined the main flyways, terms, and other parameters of migration of eagles through Eastern Kazakhstan. We have outlined the borders of the migration corridor and estimate the number of migrants passing through it. The study highlights the importance of the Karatau ridge for eagles from the vast territories of Russia and Kazakhstan. But we are also concerned about the development of wind farms with horizontal-axis wind turbines that expose ultimate danger for raptors in the Karatau migration corridor. One of them already exists – the Zhanatas Wind-Power Station. Here we calculated the possible negative impact on the eagle population from the existing and projected wind farms of the Karatau ridge and give our recommendations for neutralizing the damage from the development of the electric power industry in Karatau.
... In the case of Asia, although it was the second continent with the most published studies, most were concentrated in a few regions such as Altai (Russia) or Mongolia (e.g. Nikolenko and Karyakin, 2012;Dixon et al., 2013). We found that the language of publications was a major barrier to accessing field studies and collecting data, especially from reports that were not international scientific publications. ...
... It is crucial to encourage the use of vaults or other crossarms for holder pylons (APLIC, 2006), which allow insulators to be suspended, and to avoid phasing on the crossarm to limit future impacts. Regulation should consider the renewal of outdated lines to avoid unintended impacts, as is happening in some Asian countries with the replacement of old wooden pylons with new steel pylons (Dixon et al., 2013). ...
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Universal energy access is one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and thus the deployment of electricity grids is expected to expand globally in the coming decades. However, the installation of power lines is not biodiversity-friendly. In particular, electrocution on power pylons is a major cause of bird mortality worldwide, including for some severely endangered species. Over the last decades, different studies have improved our understanding of the factors influencing the risk of electrocution in birds, but until now spatial gaps in our knowledge of these impacts and the factors driving global patterns of bird electrocution have not been assessed. In this study, we evaluated data from a total of 114 studies that provided information on bird mortality rates on power lines, and we analyzed the factors driving electrocution rates for all bird species, and then for all raptors and large eagles separately. Our results showed a high spatial distribution bias, as more than 80% of the studies were carried out in developed countries, mostly in Europe and North America. By contrast, no systematic studies have been found for Oceania and very few for South America and Africa. Europe showed the highest electrocution rates for birds, South America for raptor species and Africa for eagles. Socioeconomic factors best-explained bird and raptor electrocution rates, while climate-related factors were the most influential for eagles. Contrary to our expectations, factors related to pylon design were the least influential on overall electrocution rates. Variables related to study design showed highly variable levels of influence. This could be due to the lack of standardized protocols. Although bird electrocution has been extensively studied, there are large areas where no studies have been carried out or for which data are inaccessible. This could be because in these areas the power distribution network is still sparse, or that most studies are not public or accessible to the international community. Researchers and managers should promote the publication of studies, as awareness is the first step to solving these problems. The factors identified could be applied globally to the design and planning of power grids and the identification of mortality hotspots. This would help mitigate the creation of new mortality hotspots, especially in developing countries where the installation of new power lines has been growing exponentially in recent years.
... They play vital roles in maintaining ecosystem balance (Xia et al. 1991) under the context of vast modernization and environmental shifts (Liu and Chen 2000;Foggin 2008). They face threats associated with climate change (Liu and Chen 2000) as well as anthropogenically-induced mortality, such as electrocution from power lines (Dixon et al. 2013) and pika poisoning (Badingqiuying et al. 2016). Raptor species include the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) (Birdlife International 2017), Upland Buzzard (Buteo hemilasius), Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) (Dixon et al. 2013; Birdlife International 2018a), Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis), Himalayan Vulture (Gyps himalayensis), and Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) (Schaller 1998;Cui et al. 2008;Birdlife International 2019). ...
... They face threats associated with climate change (Liu and Chen 2000) as well as anthropogenically-induced mortality, such as electrocution from power lines (Dixon et al. 2013) and pika poisoning (Badingqiuying et al. 2016). Raptor species include the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) (Birdlife International 2017), Upland Buzzard (Buteo hemilasius), Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) (Dixon et al. 2013; Birdlife International 2018a), Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis), Himalayan Vulture (Gyps himalayensis), and Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) (Schaller 1998;Cui et al. 2008;Birdlife International 2019). Understanding their diets is necessary for effective conservation action, and DNA metabarcoding of regurgitated pellets provides a method to do so noninvasively. ...
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Background Diet analysis is essential to understanding the functional role of large bird species in food webs. Morphological analysis of regurgitated bird pellet contents is time intensive and may underestimate biodiversity. DNA metabarcoding has the ability to circumvent these issues, but has yet to be done. Methods We present a pilot study using DNA metabarcoding of MT-RNR1 and MT-CO1 markers to determine the species of origin and prey of 45 pellets collected in Qinghai and Gansu Provinces, China. Results We detected four raptor species [Eurasian Eagle Owl ( Bubo bubo ), Saker Falcon ( Falco cherrug ), Steppe Eagle ( Aquila nipalensis ), and Upland Buzzard ( Buteo hemilasius )] and 11 unique prey species across 10 families and 4 classes. Mammals were the greatest detected prey class with Plateau Pika ( Ochotona curzoniae ) being the most frequent. Observed Shannon’s and Simpson’s diversity for Upland Buzzard were 1.089 and 0.479, respectively, while expected values were 1.312 ± 0.266 and 0.485 ± 0.086. For Eurasian Eagle Owl, observed values were 1.202 and 0.565, while expected values were 1.502 ± 0.340 and 0.580 ± 0.114. Interspecific dietary niche partitioning between the two species was not detected. Conclusions Our results demonstrate successful use of DNA metabarcoding for understanding diet via a novel noninvasive sample type to identify common and uncommon species. More work is needed to understand how raptor diets vary locally, and the mechanisms that enable exploitation of similar dietary resources. This approach has wide ranging applicability to other birds of prey, and demonstrates the power of using DNA metabarcoding to study species noninvasively.
... Asia is undergoing the fastest economic growth and many of its countries are exponentially increasing their power line network (Hammons 2011). In addition to this sharp increase, most power lines have little or no retrofitting (Dixon et al. 2013a), as most Asian countries are limited in their economic resources. However, avian electrocution and collision studies in this continent are scarce (Lehman et al. 2007;Bernardino et al. 2018;Slater et al. 2020), so there is an urgent need to focus efforts on the continent, especially in important bird areas, to understand the magnitude of these impacts. ...
... One of the largest concerns is the high mortality rate of the Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug; Dixon et al. 2020), which is globally endangered (BirdLife International 2021) and a large part of its breeding population is in Mongolia (Gombobaatar et al. 2004). Despite previous research about birds and power lines carried out in Mongolia (Harness et al. 2008;Amartuvshin and Gombobaatar 2012;Dixon et al. 2013a), most studies have been located in the central and eastern part of the country (Ganbold et al. 2018). By contrast, large areas in southern Mongolia have remained understudied. ...
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Background Electrocution and collisions on power lines are among the leading causes of non-natural mortality for birds. Power lines are exponentially increasing, particularly in developing countries, but mitigation strategies to prevent bird mortality are questionable. Mongolia combines a recently increased power line network, an abundant raptor population, a dangerous crossarm configuration and a habitat with no natural perches, producing many bird-power line interactions. Our aim is to assess the bird mortality caused by power lines in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, to determine the factors increasing the risk of bird electrocution, and to evaluate the effectiveness of used retrofitting measures. Methods In July 2019 we covered 132.9 km of 15 kV power lines checking 1092 poles. We also conducted bird transects to record raptor and corvid richness and abundance, to assess species vulnerability to electrocution. Results We recorded 76 electrocuted birds of 7 species. Electrocution rate was 6.96 birds/100 poles. The most affected species were Common Raven ( Corvus corax ) and Upland Buzzard ( Buteo hemilasius ), highlighting the electrocution of 5 endangered Saker Falcons ( Falco cherrug ). By contrast, we only recorded 8 individuals of 5 species colliding with wires, the most affected being Pallas’s Sandgrouse ( Syrrhaptes paradoxus ). About 76.1% of sampled poles had some mitigation measure. Of these, 96.6% were brush perch deflectors and 3.4% rotating-mirrors perch deterrents. We found differences in electrocution rates among crossarm configurations, with the strain insulator with one jumper being the most lethal. Additionally, we found no correlation between bird abundance and electrocution rates, suggesting that some species are more sensitive to electrocution. Although no differences in total bird electrocution rates were detected between poles with and without perch deterrents, when bird size is considered, deterrents reduced the mortality rate of small birds, while they were ineffective for medium-sized birds. Conclusions Despite the widespread use of perch deterrents in the Mongolian power line network, there is still an alarming electrocution rate. This strategy is ineffective and some mechanisms, such as brush perch deflectors, may increase the electrocution rate for some medium-sized birds. Finally, we propose strategies to minimize the avian electrocution rate in the Gobi Desert.
... Admission of raptors due to electrocution was the most lethal form of injury experienced by all three species of raptors. Several studies (Janss and Ferrer, 1999;Lehman, 2001;Lehman et al., 2007;Lasch et al., 2010;Dixon et al., 2013;Kagan, 2016) reported that electrocution was the most common cause of injuries to the raptor population worldwide. Proper management of power lines to reduce the incidence of electrocution needs to be highly prioritized (Jenkins et al., 2010;Slater et al., 2020;Kolnegari et al., 2021;Orihuela-Torres et al., 2021). ...
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Wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers offer important insights regarding the threats and attributes associated with raptor casualties. We utilized a data set on raptors admitted to a single wildlife rescue center (WRC) in the Mid-Hills region of Nepal by applying two approaches. First, we explored the overview of species admitted and the cause of admission at WRC, and modeled the outcome (survival, mortality) of frequently admitted raptor species (FARS) by analyzing the cause of admittance, the season of admittance, and age category through binary logistic regression. Second, we identified the high-risk zone for raptors through an ensemble approach using multiple species distribution modeling algorithms in BIOMOD2. A total of 17 species of raptors with 830 cases of admittance; Black Kite (Milvus migrans) 47%, Barn Owl (Tyto alba) 24%, Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo) 12%, and other species (17%) were recorded at the WRC over the course of five years (2017–2021). Unknown causes (39%) comprised the largest proportion of admittance, followed by illegal captivity (17%), injured by dogs (10%), and injured by humans (10%). Among the three FARS, the mortality rate was highest in the Barn Owl (62%), followed by the Eurasian Eagle-Owl (55%) and the Black Kite (47%). The model with an additive effect of species, cause, and age category was the best fit model to predict the outcome for FARS. Out of the total study area (705 km2), 19% was under high-risk, 41% was under medium-risk and 40% was under low-risk. Most of the high-risk zones were incorporated within agricultural areas (57%) and built-up areas (31%). The variation in mortality rate among the FARS indicates that species-specific conservation strategies need to be developed to reduce casualty risk. Identified potential anthropogenic threats and their impact on the survivability and mortality of raptors in this study could help to mitigate casualties. Moreover, the high-risk areas associated with raptor casualties in this study need to be prioritized to implement the conservation endeavors for the raptors.
... These mitigation measures can theoretically be attached to power lines after construction is completed, but it is more costly and logistically difficult (Mahood, 2021). These types of mitigation measures are standard in many countries where power lines traverse areas used by globally threatened species that are susceptible to power line mortality (Dixon et al., 2013). ...
Technical Report
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Many authors contributed to this annex.
... The bulk of raptor related studies that have been conducted close to this landscape are in Nepal, on scavenger population, threats Virani et al. 2008;Acharya et al. 2009Acharya et al. , 2010Harris 2013;Bhusal and Paudel 2016;Subedi et al.2018), and migration of predatory raptors (DeRoder 1989;Gurung et al. 2004;DeCandido et al. 2013;Subedi et al. 2017). In the Tibetan plateau (northernmost of KSL) where key studies (Katzner et al. 2004;Lu et al. 2009;Dixon et al. 2013;MaMing and Xu 2015;MaMing et al. 2016;Zhang et al. 2019) are on ecology, conservation, threats and abundance status. ...
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Raptors are high in trophic level and play an essential role in the functioning of an ecosystem, yet not much information about their distribution and abundance is available from the Indian Himalayan region. The present study was conducted in the Indian part of the Kailash sacred landscape, Western Himalayas, between February 2015–December 2017, documenting the distribution and abundance status of raptors in the landscape. Altogether, 320 km of trails were walked, and 1162 km of the vehicular survey were conducted through different habitats. A total of 506 individuals of 25 species belonging to three families were recorded. Nine Globally Threatened/Near Threatened species and eight migrant species were observed from the landscape. Himalayan vulture Gyps himalayensis was the most abundant and widely distributed raptor, followed by Black-eared kite Milvus migrans lineatus and Steppe eagle Aquila nipalensis. The population of raptors is declining worldwide, and in the Kailash landscape, this lesser-known group should be monitored regularly and protected by ensuring the availability of suitable and undisturbed habitat, control on forest fire, and uncontaminated food.
This paper calculates a possible damage to avifauna during the oil and gas production in the western Orenburg Region steppe. Based on field data on bird mortality by electrocution at 6 – 10 kV overhead power lines in the study area (3.22 individuals/km), we calculated possible values of bird mortality within the model site of oil and gas fields with a broad road and electrical network. The total estimated number of dead birds reached 432.64 individuals at the power lines of the model site with a total length of 134.36 km, and the estimated amount of damage was 991560 rubles. Birds pertaining to the Corvids, Accipitrids, and Falcons perished most frequently at unsafe power lines. When oil and gas fields are located near specially protected natural areas or in the Russian-Kazakh border zone, the estimates of bird deaths at unsafe power lines are supposed to be closer to actual values.
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Vulture collapse in South Asia accompanied rapid urbanisation. However, the Indian-Subcontinent’s “Action Plan for Vulture Conservation'' and the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals’ (CMS) “Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian vultures” reflect poorly on how their scavenging services factored in the regional social-ecological tool - a nature-based-solution. We report the ethnography of the extinction of experience concerning vultures in the tropical megacity of Delhi to contribute to wildlife restoration policies in human-use landscapes. People anthropomorphised avian scavengers while sharing perceptions that promoted ritual feeding of crows and kites. It attracted and supported enormous bird-flocks in the region, an ecological response to the rapid niche-evacuation. Stakeholders’ perceptions that offered links in vulture salience and charisma corresponded with respective socio-cultural legends, based on bird morphology, behaviour, and ecosystem services. Conflating with ethnoecology, cultural legends mediated human-animal interface, based on species-specific life-history traits. The latter inextricably tied humans and vultures in their population and demographic parameters and mutual tolerance in behaviour that promoted co-existence. Therefore, wildlife restoration in urbanising landscapes is a moving target, necessitating policies sensitive to progressive loss and/or changes in associative heritage through shifting economic and cultural practices, and socio-cultural stories. In order to uphold their erstwhile functional ecology, vultures would need to behaviourally fathom new built-up spaces, interference from competing scavengers and mediatised misinformation.
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Electrocution on poorly designed power poles is increasingly shown to pose a threat for the populations of many large raptors. Here we document that a power line in Sudan continues to cause mortality of Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus, a problem that was first identified in 1984. We suggest that this power line may have caused the death of sufficient Egyptian Vultures to partially explain population declines in the Middle East, from where the electrocuted birds may originate. This report highlights the urgent need to plan and retro-fit power lines in Africa with non-lethal support structures.
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This study is important because Mongolia is the main reserve country for breeding saker falcons in the world, where they play a key role in the steppe ecosystem as a predator of a rodent pest species. This is the first study to address factors influencing egg, chick and adult saker mortality in Central Mongolia. A total of 338 eggs, fresh remains and carcasses from 194 active nests in the study areas were collected and examined. Egg, chick and adult mortality in the study areas did not differ significantly between 1998 and 2004. Deserted clutches (35.1%) and infertile eggs (30.4%) were found to be the two main factors causing reduced hatching success. Factors causing chick mortality were not significantly different each year. In 1998 -2004, natural causes accounted for 61.1% of total mortality of Central Mongolian sakers. Human or anthropogenic factors explained 26.4% of all saker deaths. The main predator of chicks was the Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo). Chick mortality caused by cleaning raptor nests from poles and HPEL pylons was 21.3%. No significant differences were found between factors influencing adult saker mortality. The highest percentage of total adult saker mortality was caused by electrocution (54%). Poisoning also reduced saker numbers. The number of exported sakers has dramatically increased over the last four years. saker numbers in Mongolia are relatively high and so trappers are increasingly concentrating on this reserve. A harsh winter in 2002 caused decreased Brandt's vole (Microtus brandti) numbers in two study areas. The number of saker breeding pairs decreased in these study areas in 2003. The results will provide an important data source for planning saker falcon conservation strategies and activities in Mongolia.
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Empirical data and theoretical considerations indicate that species with high wing loading and low aspect run a high risk of colliding with power lines. These birds are characterised by rapid flight, and the combination of heavy body and small wings restricts swift reactions to unexpected obstacles. When the number of reported collision victims is considered relative to the abundance and population size of the species concerned, some Galliformes, Gruiformes, Pelecaniformes and Ciconiiformes species seem to appear in disproportionately high numbers. In contrast, species frequently affected by electrocution particularly seems to involve Ciconiiformes, Falconiformes, Strigiformes and Passeriformes. An alarmingly large number of species with endangered and vulnerable status are identified among the victims, but there are insufficient data at present for judging the significance of mortality caused by power lines at the population level.
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Along three transects of medium voltage power lines in the steppe of Central Kazakhstan, surveys for bird casualties were carried out in summer 2006 in order to estimate the quantitative and qualitative impact of power lines on bird mortality in this area. In total, 409 dead birds of 34 different species were found. Raptors represented 44 % of the total (179 individuals, 10 species). Most of them died due to elec­ trocution. The proportion of raptors strongly varied between early and late summer, the increase in August suggests that especially young birds are prone to electrocution. The den­ sity of raptor casualties varied from 0.1 to 7.6 birds per line km and month. Adverse effects of power lines on bird life could be avoided by changing the pole construction (use of suspended insulators) or protective measures (e. g. caps).
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ABSTRACT Bird electrocution on power lines is an important conservation problem that affects many endangered species. We surveyed 3,869 pylons in the Barcelona Pre-littoral Mountains (Catalonia, NE Spain) and collected 141 carcasses of electrocuted birds, mainly raptors and corvids. Univariate analysis indicated that metal pylons with pin-type insulators or exposed jumpers, with connector wires, located on ridges, overhanging other landscape elements, and in open habitats with low vegetation cover were the most dangerous. A logistic regression model indicated that the probability of a pylon electrocuting a bird was mainly related to pylon conductivity, distribution of the conductive elements on the cross-arms, cross-arm configuration, habitat, topography, whether the pylon was overhanging other landscape elements, and presence of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). We validated the predictive power of this model by using a random sample of 20% of all pylons surveyed. We found that bird mortality was aggregated mainly on pylons assigned a high probability risk by the model. Pylons included in the very high electrocution risk category (9.2%) accounted for 53.2% of carcasses, whereas pylons classified in the low electrocution risk category (54.5%) only accounted for 3.5% of mortality. Power companies employed this classification to prioritize the correction of 222 pylons by installing alternate cross-arms and suspended jumpers and isolating wires and jumpers. We evaluated the effectiveness of this mitigation strategy. A significant fall in the mortality rate on corrected pylons combined with the lack of any reduction in the mortality rate in a sample of 350 noncorrected pylons indicated that the model selected adequately the most dangerous pylons and that the applied correction measures were effective. Consequently, our strategy may be a useful tool for optimizing efforts and resources invested in solving the problem of bird electrocution.
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We systematically reviewed the raptor electrocution literature to evaluate study designs and methods used in raptor electrocution research, mitigation, and monitoring, emphasizing original research published in English. Specifically, we wondered if three decades of effort to reduce raptor electrocutions has had positive effects. The majority of literature examined came from North America, western Europe, and South Africa. In spite of intensive and often sustained effort by industry and governments across three continents for 30 years, reductions in the incidence of electrocution have been demonstrated in only a few studies. Reliable rate estimates of electrocution mortality generally are unavailable, with some exceptions. Nearly half of 110 studies we analyzed in detail were retrospective reviews of historical mortality records, banding data, or results of necropsies on dead birds received at pathology and veterinary facilities. Among prospective studies, less than half used unbiased approaches to sampling and many did not provide enough detail to assess the sampling design used. At this time, few researchers can demonstrate the reliability of standardized retrofitting procedures or the effectiveness of monitoring techniques. Future progress in reducing raptor mortalities on power lines will benefit from properly designed studies that generate rate estimates of mortality, address biasing factors, and include predictions concerning risk and techniques to reduce risk that can be tested in the field or laboratory.
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The purpose of this paper is to weigh the issues and options for increasing electricity access in remote and geographically challenged villages in interior Rajasthan, the desertstate in Western India where power sector reforms are currently underway. By first providing an overview of reforms and various electrification policy initiatives in India, the paper then analyzes the specific problems as studied at the grass-roots level with respect to rural electricity access and the use of off-grid renewables. Finally, it discusses interventions that could facilitate access to electricity by suggesting a sequential distributed generation (DG)-based approach, wherein consecutive DG schemes—incorporating the requisite technological, financial, and institutional arrangements—are designed depending on the developmental requirements of the community. In essence, this approach fits under the broader need to understand how the three “Rs”— rural electrification (the process), power sector reforms (the catalyst), and the use of renewable energy technologies (the means)—could potentially converge to meet the needs of India's rural poor.