Andean Condors Making a Comeback
The Andean condor Species Survival Plan (SSP) is working towards the development of sustainable populations of Andean condors in three key areas:
First, the program is developing a sustainable population of condors.
Second, to support the 21-year old release program where more than 80 condors produced in 18 zoos in the SSP have been released to the wild in Colombia and previously Venezuela.
Thirdly, working with ACOPAZOA (Asociacion Colombiana De Parques Zoologicos Y Acuarious), to assist in establishing condors in Colombian zoos that, in the future, would produce offspring for release as well.
In December of 2012, two condors were exported from the United States and released in the region of Paramo Güicán, Department of Boyacá, Colombia. This component of the program is managed by Fundación Neotropical, a Colombian NGO. Exciting news from the field confirmed that condors previously released have produced offspring in the wild. Education outreach programs are key components that have resulted in greater community support for the condor.
A monitoring system was implemented to improve the tracking of condors previously released in the wild. This new program is designed in collaboration with the Universidad Javeriana in Bogota and will address the spatio-temporal dynamics of condor ranging patterns. A post doc from the university is monitoring the condors that have been equipped with tracking devices.
The telemetry system will enable conservation managers to determine the degree to which existing protection zoning encompasses the areas where the birds most often occur. If the tracking data indicates that condors are intensively using habitats that are not currently under government protection, then recommendations would be provided to regulatory agencies to enhance protective measures using sound ecological information.
The tracking data will be used to identify populated regions within the condor’s range, and tailor our conservation education and outreach efforts to these communities to raise the public profile of the species and its conservation challenges.
In December, a collaborative workshop was held in Bogota for the conservation of the condor in South America. Partners from Colombia, Argentina, Chile, and the United States presented information on various projects within South America. A workshop was also held to address zoological master plans with the assistance of the SSP. The Andean Condor SSP Care Manual was translated into Spanish and will be utilized as a resource for Colombian Zoos.
Additional plans this year include the training of Colombian keeper staff regarding incubation techniques. This training will benefit the development of keeper staff and benefit two endangered species programs (Andean condor and blue-billed curassow).This is a combined effort between San Diego Zoo Global, Houston Zoo, and Weltvogelpark Walsrode, a bird park located in the middle of the Lüneburg Heath in North Germany.
By Michael Mace, Alan Lieberman, and James Sheppard
Photos: Francisco Ciri, Fundación Neotropical and Fausto Saenz, Fundación Neotropical