The Andean Condor is a magnificent bird. It is slightly smaller than the also nearly extinct Californian Condor but has a longer wingspan and greater bulk. Both are members of the vulture family and are principally carrion feeders.
The Andean Condor can have a wingspan of up to ten and a half feet, can weigh from 25 to 35 pounds, can soar up to an hour without flapping its wings and has been known to travel up to 150 miles a day in search of food. Its average age is believed to be in the 50's although there have been three documented cases of males living into their late 70's. They reach sexual maturity at about six years of age, and they mate monogamously for life. Successful breeding will result in a single egg being produced once every two years. The Andean Condor has been found from Venezuela down to Patagonia in the southern tip of Argentina. It was once very common but now is considered endangered.
|Coat of Arms of Ecuador|
The Condor also figures prominently in the religions and mythology of the indigenous people of South America. Incas and others believed that man is born from the stars and, after death, his spirit returns there on the wings of the condor. Many ancient religions associate the condor with the sun diety and often see the condor as a messenger carrying prayers to the gods and returning with omens. There were also some religions that believed that the condor was inhabited by the souls of men who had angered the gods and thus were doomed to spend eternity subsisting of the flesh of decaying animals. At one point Incan legends told that the condor was responsible for carrying the sun up into the sky each day and returning it to its nighttime resting place at the bottom of a large lake. An indigenous belief from Amazonia holds that the condor serves as the guardian spirit of mankind and that mankind would perish without the condor. With all the biological diversity that exists here, the condor is a unique and treasured symbol of nature's patrimony and of national pride.
|Soraya and Arturo at nesting site.|
The area near the condor's nesting site and near the area in which the photos were taken is a protected area and the taking of game there carries a one to two year jail term. Because the game taken was an endangered species the term is increased to two to four years imprisonment. As of the posting of this blog, the identity of the man purported to be the killer of the condor is known to authorities but neither the condor carcass nor the suspect himself has been recovered by the authorities.
Two other condors were reportedly found dead in other areas of Ecuador in the past four months. In those cases, there was no evidence of human involvement but the birds were examined later and discovered to have been poisoned. We, in Ecuador, mourn these terrible losses and hope for the preservation of a valued national symbol.
Viva El Condor!