Colombia’s indigenous peoples lead first census of Andean Condor


The first-ever census on the population count of the Andean Condor by the national parks entity Parques Nacionales and Fundación Neotropical aims to document the existence of at least 130 species in some of Colombia’s highest and most remote regions. The number is based on an estimate from the 2016 Red Book on Colombian Birds.

The survey, conducted with the help of 300 volunteers from indigenous communities across the country, among them the Kokonuko in southwestern Cauca, Arhuaco in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and Yukpa in the Serranía de Perijá also received support from townships across the departments of Quindío, Nariño and Boyacá – home to some of the country’s largest natural reserves, including parks PNN Los Nevados, PNN Puracé and PNN El Cocuy.

The condor was also spotted in the nature reserve Santurbán (Santander) where gold mining concessions close to the high-altitude wetland – páramo – remain an on-going source of contention between conservation groups and foreign operators. Volunteers also visited regions at the northeastern tip of La Guajira to document the existence of the species in this arid peninsula. The expeditions involved difficult hikes to altitudes above 3,000 meters to spot the Andean Condor. “I am ready for some very interesting camping,” remarked volunteer Freddy Maldonado on social media as he reached the Almorzadero páramo between the departments of Norte de Santander and Santander.

The Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) recently had its status updated to Vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species given a rapid decrease in numbers. According to BirdLife International, the species could now be extinct in Venezuela and only 7,000 adults remaining in the Andes. “The Andean Condor is built to last. But humans are ruining its natural ‘live slow, die old’ life strategy, causing high death rates from which it is hard to recover,” says Ian Davidson, BirdLife’s Americas Director.

A suspected case last week of lead poisoning in southern Bolivia where 35 giant condors were discovered dead among the corpses of a goat and dog, confirms some of the threats to the survival of a species considered sacred to many indigenous peoples. The dumping of toxic waste in rivers from illegal mining, habitat loss to deforestation and hunting are some of the human activities that are also contributing to the extinction of the Colombian condor; and country’s National Bird whose most identifiable characteristic is its majestic 3-meter-long wingspan.

The results of the census are expected to be released in upcoming weeks by Parques Nacionales and Neotropical.


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