A total of 34 Andean Condors (Vultur gryphus) were found dead in the Mendoza Region of Argentina. Based on the bird’s plumage, wildlife inspectors identified 20 males and 14 females. Moreover, 30 were adults, one sub-adult, two juveniles, and one was not aged due to a deteriorated plumage. A puma or cougar (Puma concolor), and sheep were also found dead at the site.

andean condors poisoned
The 34 Andean Condors were found in various stages of decomposition. Photo: Pograma Conservacion del Condor Andino.

How and where the 34 birds were found

mendoza-Argentina

Local residents gave notice to the authorities about the finding, which occurred in a secluded area near the town of Los Molles. It took local officials a four-hour hike to reach the location where the birds were found dead.

The police report indicates that the animals did not all die at the same time. Some were dead for months and others only a few weeks. The dead animals were put in a piled and partially burned.

The 34 poisoned Andean condors were found in the town of Los Molles, in Mendoza, Argentina.

The map to the right shows the approximate location of Los Molles, which is located approximately 166 miles  (268.1 kilometers) from the city of Mendoza in Argentina.

What Caused the Death of the Condors and the Puma

The livestock in the region, which are mostly sheep, move in large areas where farmers have poor control over the herds. Pumas and foxes (Lycalopex culpaeus) depredate livestock and are seen as pest animals. Some farmers also think that condors kill live animals to eat them, although the fact is that the Andean Condor is a scavenger that eats dead animals.

Ranchers put poisoned dead sheep as bait to attract and eliminate foxes, pumas, and also condors. Although, some ranchers claim that the poisoned bait is directed to eliminate foxes and pumas.

The report also indicates that the animals were poisoned with the powerful poison Carbofuran (Furadan).

The fact that sheep were also found in the same place with condors and a dead puma, which someone tried to burn, indicates that this was a poisoning station.

What is the magnitude of the problem

The Andean Condor was listed as a threatened species in 1973. Hunting with firearms and poisoning constitutes the main threat throughout its range.

News of Andean Condor poisoning surface year after year in South American countries. In Argentina alone, several cases of poisoned condors have been reported in previous months.

It is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 individuals in the entire geographic range (IUCN). This number is decreasing mainly due to the persecution of humans. In some countries, the Andean Condor is a rare species.

The 32 individuals killed in Mendoza, Argentina represent 50% of the total population of the Andean Condor in the country of Ecuador, estimated to be only 65 individuals.

condor andino envenenado Peru
A puma and sheep were found dead in the same place, which indicates that this spot was likely a poisoning station. Photo: Programa Conservacion del Condor Andino.

What can be done

The first step would be to educate ranchers about the fact that the Andean Condor is predominantly a scavenger bird. It is possible that the Andean Condor pulls the umbilical cord of newborn livestock but it is presumed to be a rare event and does not represent significant losses.

Argentine environmentalists accuse ranchers of the indiscriminate use of Carbofuran or Furadan, which is extremely toxic to fish, birds, and insects. It is imperative to control the distribution and use of Furadan, which is very harmful to the Andean Condor, the environment, and humans. Furadan has been banned in Europe and the United States but is sold freely in Argentina and other countries in South America.

In Summary

The finding of 34 dead condors in one spot suggests that this was a poisoning station. Given the continuity of reports of poisoned condors in several countries, it is likely that many of these poisoning stations are never found or go unreported.

The Andean Condor has a very low annual reproductive rate and replacing dead individuals in a population takes many years. If the slaughter of condors continues, it is certain that at some point in the future the regional population of the Andean Condor will collapse.

References:

– Diario La Nacion, Argentina
– Chile News
– Diario el Federal, Argentina
Programa, Conservation del Condor Andino

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