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  HOME | Science, Nature & Technology

2 Condors Released Into Bolivian Wild as Probe Held Into Mass Poisoning

CHOQUEKOTA -- Two female condors rescued in a rural Bolivian community were returned to their natural habitat on Tuesday after undergoing a rehabilitation process in the municipal biopark of La Paz and as an investigation is underway in the south of the country into the death of around 30 such birds by poisoning.

The birds, named Choquekota and Retamani, were released on a hill near the rural community of Choquekota, in the southern municipality of Palca of the capital city.

The release was led by Deputy Environment Minister Magin Herrera, the director of companies and entities of La Paz Mayor's Office, Verónica Rojas, officials of the national government and of the municipalities of La Paz and Palca, as well as indigenous authorities.

"The condor is a symbol that represents all Bolivians, it is on our shield. So we are very happy because the two condors have taken flight," Herrera said.

After the release of the birds, the indigenous people served an apthapi or community meal to the attendees.

Choquekota was found on Feb. 2 in the community by the same name by locals who saw her fall from a hill, Grace Ledezma, director of the Vesty Pakos biopark in La Paz, which was in charge of the rehabilitation of both condors, told EFE.

The second bird was found two days later in a similar situation by residents of the Retamani community.

They were taken to the La Paz municipal biopark where they underwent health, physical, nutritional and "behavioral" evaluations and were found to be weak and severely dehydrated, according to Ledezma.

Vitamins and a proper diet were part of the treatment they received that allowed them to gain weight and regain their health she said.

The birds remained in "quarantine" in spaces with natural elements to prevent contact with humans and to allow them to continue to exhibit species-specific behavior.

After three weeks, Choquekota and Retamani were more active and shunned human presence, which showed "that they were ready to return to nature," Ledezma added.

Before releasing them, they were fitted with GPS devices to monitor them, said Herrera, who also highlighted the commitment of the locals to the conservation of wildlife.

While this was transpiring in La Paz, in the southern region of Tarija, an investigation is being conducted into the death of 34 condors earlier this month.

A research biologist at non-profit Nativa, Juan de Dios Garay, part of the commission tasked with determining the circumstances of the event, told EFE that "a pretty strong and lethal toxic component" was found inside the animals and on the ground.

According to various testimonies gathered by the commission and the authorities, a poisoned goat had been left as bait.

Besides the 34 dead condors, other predatory species, including the Cathartes aura and the Caracara plancus, and about five dogs, were also found.

The research biologist said that even "insects that are attracted to meat, to carrion, also died immediately if they had the decomposition fluids" of the condors and other animals.

According to the preliminary conclusions of the commission, residents of the rural community of Laderas Norte in Tarija put out the poisoned goat as bait to protect their herds from stray dogs and foxes that had been attacking their goats and sheep.

A complaint regarding this case has already been filed with the Public Ministry and Nativa hopes that this incident will not be archived and those responsible will be found.

To prevent such an incident from reoccurring, Nativa has proposed that "a reserve be created, a protected area of 57,000 hectares."

There are already two reserves in the area but they are too small to be able to properly care for condors and big cats, according to the non-profit.

"The proposal is so that in the future this protected area can be extended to the Tarquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve," Garay explained.
 

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