EFEBy Ana de Leon Panama City

The harpy eagle, Panama's national bird, is one of the world's most coveted at-risk species due to the high value of its white, black and light-gray plumage on the international black market.

Known as the king of the Panamanian skies, that large and powerful raptor is listed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

But the biggest threat to these birds comes from customers of species markets who want these animals for their personal zoos.

"It's the eagle with the strongest talons, emblematic in many countries of the Americas, king of our skies," the Panamanian Environment Ministry's regional director for the Caribbean province of Colon, Felipe Cruz, told Efe. "And it's coveted because it's a very attractive bird of prey."

A member of the accipitridae family, the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) measures between 89 centimeters (35 inches) and 1.2 meters from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail. The bird's wingspan can stretch as long as 2.24 m when it fans out and reveals its patterned, mostly white, underside.

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