Condor – Envoy of Freedom and Peace
Courage, farsightedness, power, pride and love of freedom: this is what the condor stands for. Consequently, just like the eagle in Europe, this bird plays a very special role in the self-perception of the Andean states. In the La Paz Zoo, the Academy has initiated a project for the protection of the critically endangered “King of the Skies” of South America that is the first of its kind.
In 2013, Prof. Dr. Henning Wiesner, veterinarian Dr. Miriam Wiesner and ethnologist Alexandra Falter had already travelled to Bolivia in order to support the La Paz Zoo in its veterinary and zoological queries. Aside from a training course in distance immobilisation using the blowpipe technique, they put a special focus on the fact that there were no condor offspring. At that time, Henning Wiesner gave specific tips how the husbandry of these delicate animals could be improved: He recommended adjusting their feeding and respecting the ratio of calcium and phosphor tailored to this type of bird, as well as adding sufficient trace elements and vitamins in their food. Additionally he recommended separating breeding birds from their conspecifics. Until then, all birds had been kept together in one aviary.
This separation would provide the birds with the necessary space and privacy to breed and raise their offspring in peace – something that so far had not been possible in the La Paz Zoo. “Project Condor” resulted out of these recommendations. The underlying idea is a conservation-breeding program designed for the national bird of the Andean countries with the dream to see the condor fly freely across La Paz in the future – visible for everyone. In addition, it is part of the project to equip the people with profound knowledge about this species since this is the only way to protect the condor in its natural habitat
In its entire native area, this scavenger is deemed to be under threat, particularly in the northern parts; that is to say in countries such as Venezuela and Colombia the bird has become rare. Frequently, people poison the Andean condors with the justification that they feed on the productive livestock. The survival of the species is aggravated by the fact that condors can become 40 years old, but only reach sexual maturity at the age of five or six and only raise one fledgling every two years. Therefore the reintroduction programs of zoos assume considerable importance.
The news the Academy received from La Paz in December 2016 is all the more pleasing: After the recommended adjustment of husbandry and feeding conditions for the condors, the first fledgling in the history of the local zoo hatched on December 20th, 2016. Its name is Illimani and it is developing splendidly so far.■