An adult Andean condor stretches its wings at the San Diego Zoo.
Andean Condor Reintroduction Program
After 16 years of international and cross-cultural cooperation, the recovery of the Andean condor in its historical habitat in Colombia is becoming a reality. Since 1989, when the first young Andean condors were released, over 60 of the world’s largest flying raptors have been hatched and reared in captivity in U.S. zoos and released in the remote regions of the Colombian Andes. Monitoring by Colombian biologists has confirmed that the released birds have survived, matured, and are now beginning to breed, a significant milestone of success for any reintroduction program.
But the greatest measure of success for this unique conservation effort has been the international cooperation and persistence of a wide spectrum of organizations, agencies, and individuals. The program has thrived thanks to the collaboration of 15 zoos, all members of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and its SSP, the Colombian Zoo Association, a wide array of U.S. conservation organizations, and governmental agencies. These include two Colombian national governmental agencies, ten Colombian departmental agencies, the Chiles Indian Reservation, the Purace Indian Reservation, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Indian Reservation, two international airlines, and the programmatic coordination by the Zoological Society of San Diego.
A total of six sites in Colombia have served as launching pads for releases. In addition to the original release site in Chingaza, the other sites now include the Purace National Park and Purace Indian Reservation in Cauca, the Chiles Indian Reservation in Narino the Nevados National Park in Caldas, the remote mountains of central Antioquia, north of the Nevados National Park, and the newest site in the Paramo Siscunsi in Boyaca. These six sites, pinpointed on a map of the country, clearly draw a line from north to south along the axis of the three chains of the Colombian Andes. Including the 10 birds that were released in Venezuela by the Zoological Society in the early 1990s, such a release strategy will someday create a continuous and contiguous population that will establish a meta-population instead of isolated pockets of released birds.