A young steppe eagle that was recently born in the Moscow Zoo was christened after one of the star players of the 2018 World Cup Russian team, Igor Akinfeyev. Thanks to his brilliant playing, Russia made it to the quarterfinals for the first time in modern history.
“We are proud of the achievements of our football team. Their victory over Spain roused the whole country and united the hearts of millions. The Moscow Zoo could not ignore such a great event. So we decided to name the steppe eagle chick hatched just over a month ago in honour of Igor Akinfeeyv,” said Svetlana Akulova, general director of the Moscow Zoo.
The nameplate will be installed on the enclosure after the end of the tournament. The eagle is already strong, with adult plumage already replacing its baby fluff. The small predator feeds on quail meat and small rodents its parents fetch. After a couple of weeks, the chick will begin to leave the nest and explore the aviary. Then zoo visitors will be able to see it.
“While the steppe eagle chick is growing and gaining strength, we continue to support the Russian national team. Breathlessly we are waiting for the next match and whole-heartedly wish our players strength, luck and, of course, victory,” Akulova added.
The steppe eagle is a very fast and strong bird with lightning quick reaction and sharp eyesight. Eagles were often adopted as totem animals of great warriors in Russia; those who achieved notoriety on the battlefield were compared to this bird. The eagle is considered the bird of winners.
The steppe eagle is listed in the Red Book of Russia as a rare species. Its habitat extends from the steppe and semi-desert regions of the Eastern Ciscaucasia to the steppe of Trans-Baikal. The decline in its population is mainly due to the growth of cities and industry which have led to a deterioration of their natural habitat and a reduction in their forage land. With its sharp eyes, the steppe eagle is able to see its prey from a great distance, and then dive at it from the sky. Gophers, small foxes, hares, a variety of rodents and reptiles have virtually no chance to escape when the steppe eagle zeros in on them. In addition, these birds are excellent parents zealously protecting their nest and taking good care of their offspring.
The Moscow Zoo has had steppe eagles almost since its founding. There are 15 individuals there now; six of them, including the young Igor Akinfeyev, can be seen in the zoo’s new section next to the polar bear enclosure. Visitors can also look at the newly hatched chicks of red (Cuban) and pink flamingos. They have already begun to leave their nests and walk on their own through the enclosure. The flamingo family lives on the Great Pond.
Igor Akinfeyev is the goalkeeper of the CSKA Moscow club and the Russian national football team; he is a multiple Russian champion, UEFA Cup winner, and bronze medalist in the 2008 European Cup. He made two brilliant saves in a series of post-match penalties in the Round of 16 match against Spain on 1 July at Luzhniki Stadium, which sent the Russian team to the quarterfinals in the 2018 World Cup.
The World Cup started on June 14 and runs through July 15. Russia will play Croatia in the quarterfinals on 7 July.