THE RETURN OF THE CONDOR TO THE SEA
During the mid XIX century, naturalists like Charles Darwin, Enrique Hudson and
Perito Moreno, sightsee condors in the Atlantic coast of Patagonia, even as far north
as the mouth of the Rio Negro. This image that captivated the early naturalists,
was long lost with the local extinction of the species for more than 170 years.
However, since December 2003, thanks to an international conservation effort called
“The Return of the Condor to the Sea”, it was possible to reintroduce the species to
its original circulatory area. Since then, 64 individuals have been released in Sierra
Paileman, District of Valcheta, Province of Rio Negro. Thanks to intense field work
and sophisticated tracking systems of radio telemetry and satellite transmitters, we
know today that day by day they are gaining more flight experience and are able to
travel distances further than 600km from their point of release, connecting the mountain range and the sea. From evidence of their flight paths, we can pinpoint key locations for the conservation of this majestic birds in the Patagonian coast.
In 2009, as a result from studies based on satellite flight paths, we discovered the first nests of the released condors in the Atlantic Coast, after 170 years of their extinction in this area. Due to constant monitoring from camouflage shelters, we were able to observe the birth of the first 10 chicks and follow up their nurturing on part of their parents. Once these chicks started to fly, they are captured and marked with microchips, wing bands, and solar powered radio and satellite transmitters to also follow and study their movements.
This modern technology provides us with useful information to understand their movement patterns in this isolated and rugged terrain, that is the Somuncura plateau. There are about 6 chicks that were born in the Atlantic Coast. The first one was named Cayu, and by December 2016 has reached the sub-adult plumage with its characteristic white ruff around the neck. The success of these births and the survival of the chicks is a remarkable achievement which reinforces the magnitude of the conservation programme.
27 April 1834- The bed of the river became rather narrow, and hence the stream more rapid at a rate of six knots per hour. As such, from the many angular river fragments, manoeuvring the boats became both dangerous and laborious. Today I shot a condor. It measured a wing span of eight and a half feet (2.24m) and from beak to tail, four feet (1.12mts). This bird is known to have a wide habitual geographic range. On the west coast of South America, they occur from the Strait of Magellan along the
Cordillera to as far as 8º north of the equator. The steep cliff near the mouth of the Rio Negro is its northern limit on the Patagonian coast; and they have wandered there about four hundred miles (643.6km) from the great central line of their
habitation in the Andes.
A naturalist in La Plata
As of December 2003, thanks to an international conservation effort called “The Return of the Condor to the Sea” it was possible to reintroduce the species into its former distribution area. Since then, 51 copies have been released in Sierra Paileman, Dept. Valcheta, Province of Río Negro.
The survival of the Andean Condor is linked to cultural reasons. Although it was protected and venerated for thousands of years by the original communities of the Andes, since the conquest of America, a completely opposite relationship with the species has been established, which has put it in danger. The PCCA conducts education programs in rural schools and also in large cities, reaching thousands of students per year with a clear message of conservation.
Thanks to intense field work and sophisticated radio telemetry and satellite transmission tracking systems, we know today that they are gaining greater flight experience every day, reaching distances greater than 600 km from their place of release, joining the mountain range with the sea, showing with its flights the key places for the conservation of these fabulous birds on the coast of Patagonia.
Once the birds released matured, in November 2009, it was possible to discover, by studying the satellite flights of the released condors, the location of the first condor nests on the Atlantic coast, after 170 years of extinction of the species in the zone. There are already 10 pigeons born on the Atlantic coast.