A resolution taken by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1991 declared July 7 as the National Day of the Condor in Ecuador. Unfortunately, the day goes by unnoticed by many Ecuadorians. Valeria Sáenz (@vsteleamazonas) tweeted:
El 7 de julio fue el día nacional del ave símbolo del #ecuador el cóndor andino alguien celebró?
A few minutes after her first tweet, Valeria put into perspective the significance of the day of the condor:
The Andean condor is the national symbol of five Latin American countries, and it is a prominent symbol in Ecuador's coat of arms. A member of the Cathartidae family, the condor is considered the largest flying land bird in the Western Hemisphere. Its size reaches 1m 35cm in length; the tips of its wings fully opened can reach up to three meters and its weigh is between 10 to 15 kilograms. A condor lives 50 to 75 years. The word “condor” comes from “Condur” in the Kichwa language, meaning Vulture of the Andes; the scientific name is Vultur gryphus. As the name suggests, the large bird lives in the Andean peaks.
It is estimated that only 50 to 70 condors are alive [es], but neither the Ministry of Agriculture nor the Ministry of Environment have prominent information on their site about the condor or the projects some private organizations have undertaken to protect the animal.
Before the National day of the Condor, an Ecuadorian journalist wrote a lengthy article on this topic. Gonzalo Ortiz explains how condors survive even with several pellets or bullets inside their bodies; he also blames the government for the way they mismanage the efforts to protect the condor:
Government inefficiency and rivalries between environmental groups are blamed for failed efforts in the past to implement coherent policies to protect these majestic birds, whose principal habitat is the high-altitude rocky outcroppings along the entire stretch of the Andes Mountains.
The only official statement this past July 7 was about an ongoing project to protect the national symbol [es]: The National Andean Condor Conservation Group, led by the Ministry of Environment. This group aims to protect specific areas inhabited by the condor. These areas include: Cayambe, Coca, Antisana, Pululahua, Cotacachi, Cayapas and Cotopaxi. A website [es] –now under construction– was set up to offer more information on the project.
Because of a lack in government intervention, other organizations are working to protect and help breed baby condors; since condors are monogamous and females lays eggs every two years, it takes time to see an adult condor flying the Andes Mountains. These organizations include the Zoological Foundation of Ecuador [es], The Condor Foundation, the Simbioe Foundation, the AGATO Community [es] and the Condor Huasi Rehabilitation Project.
Foreigners visiting Ecuador are taken aback when they see a condor. At the beginning of the year, the owner of the Pululahua Hostal in the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve was inspired by the visit of condors near his own house and decided to start a blog. He shows the majesty of the Vultur gryphus through pictures, and writes candidly about his experience in Pululahua:
We have become nature lovers, ecologists, birders, lodge owners, and every day we discover something new. We have been surprised with the most beautiful flowers, orchids, birds, mammals, and people. […]
Yesterday we had a new blessing with the visit of the Andean Condor and we manage to see it and photograph it from our backyard. This inspired me to begin this new blog which is exclusively dedicated to birds so we can present the beauty of Pululahua and Ecuador.
It was amazing to see the Andean Condors, even if they were in an enclosure,…Biggest birds I've ever seen. They also had a number of other raptors at the park, and I included a couple other pictures.
What follows is a video at the Guayllabamba Zoo in Quito, with a video campaign to save the Ecuadorian national symbol: “The rapacious birds worst enemy is man's ignorance.”