Two Chilean condors have arrived in Colombia with an urgent mission: To make a love connection and save their species from disappearing from the northern region of the Andes mountains.
Environmental officials brought the condors to Colombia at the end of October and kept them in quarantine for nearly two months, before taking them to a zoo in Medellin, where ornithologists will try to mate them with the goal of releasing their young into the wild this year.
“Condors are a very endangered species," Sandra Correa, director of the Santa Fe Zoo in Medellin, told AFP. “The idea is to repopulate the skies of Colombia with these guys."
Condors are the world’s second-largest species of bird, with wingspans that can reach up to 10 feet in diameter.
The high-flying scavengers can be found along several points of the Andes, but there are fewer than 100 circling the skies above Colombia.
Environmental officials say that condors in Colombia are sometimes hunted by campesinos, who believe—mistakenly—that the birds are a threat to farm animals. Mining projects in the Andes have also hurt the species’ habitat and reduced its natural food supplies.
Colombia hopes to reverse these trends by launching educational campaigns to save the condor, and also by importing additional birds from Chile, which has a larger population of condors. Six Chilean condors were imported and placed in Colombian zoos in 2015, with the help of the San Diego Zoo and Chile’s National Union of Ornithologists.
But breeding condors in captivity is no easy task. These birds can lay only one egg per year, and they're monogamous, sticking with the same partner for their whole life.
“They go through a period where they fall in love, and there must be chemistry between the two birds before they mate,” said Correa, who's hoping to make a love connection with her newly acquired male and female condors in the Medellin Zoo.
For the moment, they're in the courting phase, but hopefully the birds will be ready to take their relationship to the next level soon. Their fate as a species in Colombia depends on it.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.