Bolivian Authorities Investigate Mass Poisoning of Endangered Condors

Andean Condor Photo: Pedro Szekely, Flickr CC

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Last weekend, Bolivian officials announced an investigation into the poisoning of 35 endangered condors in a small rural community. Andean condors are one of the largest flying birds in existence and their numbers have been consistently declining. Now, there are only 6,700 left in existence. Conservationists and local officials are outraged by the poisoning, although it is yet to be determined whether or not this was a targeted act.

Why This Matters: We’ve reported many times on the ongoing biodiversity crisis scientists predict we will lose one-third of all species by 2070. One million species on earth are endangered or threatened, and for many species, poaching is a major threat.  Poisonings like this one are not a rare occurrence:

  • In 2019, 500 endangered vultures were poisoned by illegal elephant hunters in Botswana aiming to prevent circling birds from drawing attention to their kill;
  • Over several months in 2015, poachers in Zimbabwe poisoned and killed 80 elephants with cyanide; and
  • There have also been instances of vengeful communities poisoning endangered species that interfere with agriculture and farming.

Governments across the globe are still figuring out how to fight back against this wildlife warfare. 

About the Andean Condor

Condors are some of the largest flying birds on earth, weighing up to 33 lbs., measuring 4 feet tall, and having wingspans of up to 10.5 feet. Despite living long lives (up to 75 years in captivity) these creatures often produce only 1 offspring every other year, and both parents spend one full year caring for a newborn. This means that the population of Andean condors doesn’t grow fast enough to replace the population lost to human activity. Andean condors are scavengers and therefore play a very important role in their ecosystem cleaning up carrion of all kinds.

Outrage and Concern

“We condemn the act, we want it to be investigated. It is an act that hurts us. In this department, condors live and coexist with the (rural) communities without any problem,” the department of Tarija governor Adrian Oliva said. Authorities are unsure if the birds were targeted directly, or were caught up in a plan to poison other creatures. Even if the condors weren’t targeted, poisoning animals on the ground will always find its way up the food chain, especially to vultures and other scavengers who may feed on the bodies of poisoned creatures. “There is a probability of poisoning directed at them or other animals, but since condors are scavengers, they still succumb,” said biologist Diego Mendez. “This loss is extremely serious because we are talking about condors that could represent 0.5 percent of the world’s condor population.”



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