The Andean Condor
The Lion is the king of the animals. The ruler of the land, without any natural enemies. But there is also a lion of the air: the condor. Unchallenged and undisputed. The Andean Condor has also no natural enemy, there is no other species flying around that could challenge the condor in its habits and living space.
This living space of the condor are actually the whole Andes, which means that you can find the “king of the air” in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and, of course, in Ecuador. Usually the condor lives in the so called Paramo, at an altitude of around 10,000 feet (approx. 3,000m). The importance that this majestic animal has in these countries is also visible on their flags and coats of arms, as for example of Ecuador.
One of the historic legends about the condor in Ecuador is directly linked with the raising of the Ecuadorian state: it is said that the Ecuadorian Condor defeated the colonial Spanish bull. The condor though could be seen as the patron of Ecuador.
Even though the Andean Condor has no animal enemies, there is still somebody who is a real threat to their lives: the human. Another legend, especially among the indigenous people living in Ecuador, is that the condor kidnaps and kills children and young women. This led to a lot of people hunting and killing condors to protect their children.
But of course the condor is a scavenger and would never eat living beings. By eating animals which might have died of a disease, the condor can also be seen as the health-police as he is preventing that the animal´s diseases spread. In Ecuador and other Andean countries there are actually several projects that explain to the people the harmlessness of this giant bird.
However, the hunting of the Andean Condor results in some sad news about the existence of the condor: the population is noticeably decreasing. There are continuous censuses which say that there are only 50 animals left in the Ecuadorian wildlife. But there are several projects that try to raise condors in custody, like the “Parque Condor” near Otavalo (you can visit it as part of a day tour to Otavalo). Although there were first achievements made, it is nevertheless really difficult to let the number of condors increase significantly and to protect this amazing animal from extinction.
Although it is really understandable that the condor can be terrifying to humans when you know that this bird can grow up to 4 feet in height (more than 1m). Its wingspread is even much bigger: up to 10 feet (more than 3m). And when you consider that a full-grown condor weighs around 25 lb (11 kg) then you can understand why this birds sometimes frightens human beings.
The importance of the andean condor to South America is also visible in the logos of two of the biggest airlines of the continent: the Colombian Avianca and the Argentinian Aerolineas Argentinas. As the condor flies up to altitudes of 23,000 ft (7,000m), you can see a similarity between an aircraft and the condor. Another interesting story is that the unofficial hymn of Peru is a song called “El Condor Pasa”. It is usually interpreted by indigenous musicians and linked to the Inca-civilization of the ancient times.
If you want to get an impression of the grace of this majestic animal and want to be amazed by the condor you should watch this video. Or you can check out our hiking tour of the Condor Trek for a chance to observe this bird in the wild.