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Science And Nature

A look in the monumental effort to save lots of the Andean condor

Published August 11, 2022

11 min read

The worlds largest bird of prey is in big trouble, and locals will work to save lots of it.

The Andean condor, an enormous South American cousin of the California condor, once soared across the full length and breadth of the Andes and beyond. With a wingspan of 10 feet and a life time of 50 years, the bird is definitely revered among Indigenous Andean cultures as symbolic of power and immortality. Its the national bird of at the very least four countries.

The illustrious vulture, however, hasnt had the opportunity to withstand human encroachment. Wind generators and power lines can stop condors mid-flight. Lead bullets, buried in carcasses abandoned by hunters, slowly poison the scavengers blood. Some agricultural communities omit poison bait to kill predators that victimize their livestock, a practice that also kills condors indirectly. Deliberate hunting and poaching are rare, but nonetheless happens.

Classified as vulnerableto extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), no more than 6,700 adult condors stay in the wild today. But scientists, conservationists, and Indigenous communities are helping the iconic bird become popular again.

The Andean Condor Conservation Program (PCCA) has been leading that effort in Argentina for three decades. For the reason that time, this program has rescued at the very least 370 condorsmore than five percent of the species overall populationand has hatched and released 80 condor chicks. In doing this, the group has reestablished Andean condors across the Atlantic coast of southern Patagonia.

To numerous, the increased loss of the condorand its slow resurgenceis personal and emotional. Theyre the spirit of the Andes, says Luis Jcome, director of the PCCA. Many Patagonian villagers, he says, recall stories their grandparents told of the enormous birds, flying on the hills.

Due to this deep-seated reference to Andean peoples, each and every time the PCCA releases a condor, the neighborhood community hosts a distinctive ceremony, led by way of a spiritual leader, to celebrate the birds return and provide prayers. To Jcome, that is an essential section of reintroducing the condor to its home. Our work is similar to both wings of the condor, he says. One wing is scientific knowledge, and another is culture. The condor is really a sacred bird for several our people in SOUTH USA.

Photographer and National Geographic Explorer Sofia Lopez Maan is focused on recognizing this original role the bird plays in Indigenous society and contains spent the final six years working intimately with the PCCA condor family. A lot more than anything, she says it felt like fate: I started dealing with condors since they chose me.

Along with hatching, rescuing, and releasing condors, scientists with PCCA are employing GPS-tracking collars to check out the birds after they go back to the wild. The info allows them to recognize key habitats and educate policymakers about which areas ought to be targeted for protection. One of the most crucial Patagonian lands where in fact the birds have already been released back to the wild are proposed for development for energy production, using wind generators and green hydrogen.

Today, we have been surviving in conflict, Jcome says. There has to be a go back to the natural order.

The National Geographic Society, focused on illuminating and protecting the sweetness of the world, funded Explorer Sofia Lopez Maans work. Find out more concerning the Societys support of Explorers highlighting and protecting critical species.

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