I was invited by Eduardo Arrarte for lunch today, to meet his friend Lorenzo Sympson who lives in Bariloche Argentina and dedicates a lot of time to conserve condors. Condors have become a resource for the Hacienda tourism in this part of Patagonia. Check this link from Independent on line to learn more about Lorenzo and his cause. (search for plight of the condor if it does not link right)
Condors rest overnight in colonies in cliffs, but breed well seperated from other couples in caves not necessary that close from the overnight cliffs. The overnight cliffs are usually facing east to catch the morning sun. I learnt that one can tell if it is a nest there or just a resting place, by the way a Condor flies into the cliffs to land. If it makes a very steep and direct fly-in it is likely there is a nest here. If the flight is very circular coming into landing, it indicates a resting cliff. Mabye we can get find the overnight cliffs in Santa Eulalia valley soon and if very lucky some nests.
The Condor in Peru is not reciveing any attention nationally for its protection. It is only in Colca Cañon near Arequipa where it is reasonable safe. Roger Ahlman and myself recently wrote this article on the Condor for the newsletter of the American & Canadian Association of Peru.
Ask around in Lima where one can see Andean Condors (Vultur gryphus) in Peru and the answer will be Colca Canyon near Arequipa. Well, this is true but why travel all the way down there when you have Condors just a few hours inland from Lima?
A healthy population exists in the mountains in the upper Santa Eulalia and Rimac valleys and they can even be seen crossing the Central Highway between Chosica and the Ticlio pass.
The Andean Condor is one of the most spectacular and culturally most important bird species of South America. In spite of this, in almost all of Peru its population is decreasing, though there is no hard data or thorough studies to support this statement just a general observation by the scarcity of records in many suitable areas. Its scarcity and apparent decrease in recent years has made the Peruvian conservation agency INRENA list it as Endangered in Peru. So why is it declining? The sad truth is often persecution. The Condor lives almost entirely of carcasses. Poisoned carcasses are often left out just to kill the Condors. The Condors in the upper Santa Eulalia valley seems to be doing alright as several immature birds have been seen, a good evidence that they are breeding successfully.
More than 65,000 people travel to the Colca Canyon near Arequipa every year to see the Condors and the spectacular canyon. It hasn't always been like this, in the mid-90´s only a few thousand people ventured all the way to Colca but through marketing and almost guaranteed sightings, this has become a major tourist attraction and obviously generates money for a lot of people. These Condors are worth a lot of money but only alive!
What would happen if watching Condors just four hours from Lima became as popular as around Arequipa? Certainly improved roads up the valley, perhaps good lodging for people wanting to stay overnight, jobs will be created and a lot of money will be generated. More importantly, the Condors and their habitat will become a valuable asset. This will not only benefit the Condors but also the other 4-5 species of threatened birds living in the upper Santa Eulalia valley.
Starting this year, Asociación Incaspiza will conduct a survey to investigate the population of the Condors and the other threatened birds in the valley. A special effort will be made to find their night-roost and breeding areas, and whether there might be a good watchpoint within reasonable distance allowing good views without disturbing the birds. These surveys will be open to anyone interested to join the project, and we will announce the surveys as outings of the Lima Birdwatching Club.
The Lima Birdwatching Club recently visited Ensenada de San Fernando in Nazca department (short trip report here). It seems that there are always condors here just by the coast. It remains to be seen if they also nest here. Hopefully, with the information that Lorenzo has given us we can find nests here, which would be the first confirmed nests from the Peruvian coast. Around 15 condors were seen on the last trip there. Kolibri Expeditions has included San Fernando in our new Southern circuit tour as a wilder alternative to more famous Paracas.
A national program for the Condor is much needed. All through Peru it is actively persecuted by man due to alleged attacks on livestock. It is also suffering from poisoning directed towards pumas and foxes in the Andes (a poisoned carcass is put out).
Hopefully our Incaspiza project can do something for the condors in Santa Eulalia and the eco-tourism to San Fernando could very soon create a protected area here. These actions could be a beginning to a larger coordinated condor conservation program in Peru.
Birding in Peru and South America