JavaScript is off. Please enable to view full site.

In Ecuador, pair of Andean condors revives hope for species' survival

Wednesday, September 23, 2020, 14:58 GMT+7
In Ecuador, pair of Andean condors revives hope for species' survival
A male Andean condor flies over the Chakana nature reserve in September 2020. Photo: AFP

On a rocky outcrop in an Ecuadoran nature reserve, a pair of prolific Andean condors are giving conservationists a glimmer of hope that the species, under threat from poisoning and hunting, could yet survive and thrive.

The massive Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), which calls the South American mountain range home, has a 3.5-meter (11.5-foot) wingspan, making it one of the largest flying birds.

"This couple of condors is the most impressive and most prolific pair we know of for this species," says biologist Sebastian Kohn, director of the Andean Condors Foundation, which works closely with Ecuador's environment ministry.

A female Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) overflies the Chakana private reserve of the Jocotoco foundation, on the slopes of the Antisana volcano, 50 km southeast of Quito, on September 10, 2020. Photo: AFP

A female Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) overflies the Chakana private reserve of the Jocotoco foundation, on the slopes of the Antisana volcano, 50 km southeast of Quito, on September 10, 2020. Photo: AFP

Researchers have been observing the pair in the Chakana private nature reserve, set on the slopes of the Antisana Volcano, for the past seven years.

"Since 2013, when we first started studying them, they have already had seven chicks," said Kohn, whose team observes the birds with binoculars from a watchtower in the reserve, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Quito.

A female Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) overflies the Chakana private reserve of the Jocotoco foundation, on the slopes of the Antisana volcano, 50 km southeast of Quito, on September 10, 2020. Photo: AFP

A female Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) overflies the Chakana private reserve of the Jocotoco foundation, on the slopes of the Antisana volcano, 50 km southeast of Quito, on September 10, 2020. Photo: AFP

Normally, these long-lived monogamous birds reproduce slowly, a mating pair usually only producing a chick every two or three years.

Researchers say the likely reason for this pair's high reproduction rate is good access to food, especially carrion, and the feeling of security provided by being in the reserve.

But biologists are still concerned about the future of the species in Ecuador, and indeed throughout the mountain range.

Kohn says Ecuador -- where 150 individuals were identified for a 2018 census --  should raise its "critical alert level" for the species.

A female Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) overflies the Chakana private reserve of the Jocotoco foundation, on the slopes of the Antisana volcano, 50 km southeast of Quito, on September 10, 2020. Photo: AFP

A female Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) overflies the Chakana private reserve of the Jocotoco foundation, on the slopes of the Antisana volcano, 50 km southeast of Quito, on September 10, 2020. Photo: AFP

Globally, there are some 6,700 condors but numbers are declining. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the condor as "near threatened" on its watch list.

On another rocky outcrop in the reserve, at about 4,100 meters above sea level, is the main perch where about 40 of the birds have been spotted.

A female Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) overflies the Chakana private reserve of the Jocotoco foundation, on the slopes of the Antisana volcano, 50 km southeast of Quito, on September 10, 2020. Photo: AFP

A female Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) overflies the Chakana private reserve of the Jocotoco foundation, on the slopes of the Antisana volcano, 50 km southeast of Quito, on September 10, 2020. Photo: AFP

Kohn said that over the last two years, "we have lost 15 to 20 individuals, mainly due to poisoning" linked to the consumption of contaminated carrion meant for livestock predators, in addition to hunting. 

In September, one of the birds, which researchers had named Iguinaro, was found dead.

It had been released into the Chakana reserve only in May after being treated for gunshot wounds.

AFP

More

Read more

;

Photos

VIDEOS

Experience summer sand-boarding in Mui Ne

Sand-boarding, a popular activity amongst local children in the coastal tourism town of Mui Ne in south-central Vietnam, is attracting hundreds of tourists to the Red Sand Dunes

Young maple trees given better protection as Hanoi enters rainy season

The trees are currently growing well, with green leaves and healthy branches.

Hunting skinks for food in southern Vietnam

Skink meat is known to be soft, tasty, and highly nutritious.

Vietnamese-made app allows people to grow real veggies via smartphone

Nguyen Thi Duyen, a young engineer in Hanoi, developed the app and its related services to help busy people create their own veggie gardens.

Chinese tourists hit by Vietnamese over dine and dash

Four Chinese were reportedly injured, with one having a broken arm.

Latest news