Rehabilitated Andean condors released in Patagonia National Park

After several months of rehabilitation, Pumalín and Liquiñe, two rescued condors, were able to fly free in their new home. These juvenile males and female condors were named after the places where they were found with severe damage that prevented them from flying.

After being treated at the National Zoo’s veterinary clinic and transferred to the Rehabilitation Center of Birds of Prey, they arrived at Patagonia National Park in December, where they spent two months acclimatizing. This last process was fundamental for the condors to become familiar with the territory and be ready to reinsert themselves into the wild.

“Patagonia National Park is an excellent place to release condors, considering that different groups of this species occupy the park as a corridor, as a constant flight path. This makes the possibility of integrating the new condors higher,” explained Cristián Saucedo, Director of the Wildlife Program of Fundación Rewilding Chile, the legacy of Tompkins Conservation.

"The human communities of Patagonia coexist with the condors, and the species' future depends to a great extent on their relationship. Moments as special as a condor release help us to spread the message of conservation and respect for nature more strongly in society," said Carolina Morgado, Executive Director of Fundación Rewilding Chile.

THE RELEASE

About 100 people participated in this important milestone activity, mainly residents of Cochrane, a town near Patagonia National Park. “The human communities of Patagonia coexist with the condors, and the species’ future depends to a great extent on their relationship. Moments as special as a condor release help us to spread the message of conservation and respect for nature more strongly in society,” said Carolina Morgado, Executive Director of Fundación Rewilding Chile.

At the event, attendees witnessed the exact moment when the condors left the acclimatization cage to stretch their wings and finally fly free. “Seeing an animal in its purest and wildest state is a unique experience. This makes me feel that we are all necessary for restoring ecosystems. We depend on each other,” said Carolina San Martin, a young tourism technician who participated in the activity.

Despite all the complexities of such a process, the release was considered successful. “Liquiñe flew immediately, while Pumalín took a little longer but still made it. We will be closely monitoring their progress and achievements during the next few days as a new and difficult stage begins for the condors,” said Cristián Saucedo.

THE THREATS

The main threat facing this species is poisoning in carcasses, which some ranchers and farmers use to eliminate wild predators and domestic and feral dogs that cause damage to their flocks. One poisoning event can kill dozens of condors and cause severe damage to the population.

Hunting with firearms is also a problem, even though it is prohibited by law, in addition to collisions with poorly placed power lines in mountain ranges and the ingestion of garbage.

“Their protection and conservation are relevant because of their cultural significance, their beauty, and because they are living elements with a high impact on the mountain landscape. They also play a fundamental role as scavengers, avoiding health problems in natural ecosystems and livestock production systems,” explained Eduardo Pavez, co-director of the Chile-Argentina Binational Andean Condor Conservation Program of AvesChile-Unorch.

Photo: Fundación Meri

The first few months will be exciting in terms of the condors' movements and key in providing scientific data from a larger territory", Francisca Cortés Solari, Executive President of Fundación MERI

THE FUTURE

To know how to protect a species, it is essential to gather as much information as possible to learn about its behavior, movements, and how it interacts with other species. For this reason, Pumalín and Liquiñe have had satellite transmitters installed in one of their wings to monitor them. “The first few months will be exciting in terms of the condors’ movements and key in providing scientific data from a larger territory”, Francisca Cortés Solari, Executive President of Fundación MERI, pointed out.

To date, the latest information obtained from the transmitters shows that the condors have adapted well to their new home. “The movement patterns of both condors show a very good insertion to their natural environment. During the last few weeks, Pumalín has been moving mainly near the border between Chile and Argentina, while Liquiñe has preferred to remain around the confluence of the Baker and Nef rivers,” said Dominique Durand, Executive Director of the Andean Condor Conservation Program, Manku Project.

This initiative, which seeks to strengthen the conservation, research, and education of the species, has been promoted by Fundación MERI and Manku Project for three years. For this release in Patagonia, a collaborative network was built with Fundación Rewilding Chile, the legacy of Tompkins Conservation, with the support of SAG and CONAF.