WHOOOOOO is that beautiful bird?
An elusive owl has been definitively photographed in the wild for the first time in a rainforest of Ghana.
British ecologist Dr. Robert Williams snapped the monumental photo of Shelley’s eagle owl while in Ghana’s Atewa Range Forest Reserve with Dr. Joseph Tobias, a biologist with Imperial College London, according to a release from the university published Thursday.
Not a lot is known about Shelley’s eagle owls, which at around 2 feet in length, are the largest owls in the rainforests of the African continent. They’ve been seen in forests in Central and Western Africa, and, prior to this sighting in the hilly Atewa forest, have been known to inhabit lowland areas.
“This is a sensational discovery,” Dr. Nathaniel Annorbah of Ghana’s University of Environment and Sustainable Development said in the statement. “This is a sensational discovery. We’ve been searching for this mysterious bird for years in the western lowlands, so to find it here in ridgetop forests of Eastern Region is a huge surprise.”
Western scientists first learned about the bird in 1872. Since then, there have been scattered sightings of the bird, but no photographs besides one of a captive owl at a Belgian zoo in 1975, and one image ― described by Thursday’s release as a “pixelated blob” ― from 2005 that was too blurry for anyone to confirm it’s the right species.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the birds as “vulnerable,” with threats including logging, habitat destruction, and hunting that reduces available prey for the owls.
The Atewa Range Forest Reserve, where the owl was just photographed, faces multiple threats, including commercial mining for bauxite (a substance is used to produce aluminum) and illegal logging, according to conservation organization A Rocha Ghana.
The group, which wants to make the Atewa forest a national park, cited the owl on Twitter as yet “another reason” to protect the forest.