Andean condors fly back into the wild after years-long rehabilitation in Chile

A trio of Andean condors were released back into the wild last month after years of rehabilitation for the members of the vulnerable species at a rescue center an hour southeast of Chile’s capital Santiago, the Ministry of Agriculture said.

The three condors – among the world’s largest birds that are able to fly – had been undergoing rehabilitation in the Melimoyu Ecosystem Research Institute (MERI) Foundation rescue center near the mountainous town of San Jose de Maipo.

One pair of the birds had been born in captivity to other rescues and had to learn to fly over two months around wild birds, the latest of about a dozen birds MERI has released back into the wild in recent years.

Maria Emilia Undurraga, Chile’s agriculture minister, was present at the release of the three, dubbed Huenchuman, Huenuman and Kalfuman – names from the indigenous Mapuche language. Undurraga said at the time of the birds’ release last month that she was “really excited, not just to see them fly, to see this animal that’s so vulnerable, but that’s also so symbolic for our country.”

The Andean condor is the national bird of Chile and other countries in the region, as well as an indigenous symbol for power and health. It’s also considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and several Andean countries have implemented conservation programs in recent years.

After the birds were released at the Likandes Elemental Reserve, a private park outside of San Jose de Maipo, scientists will continue to monitor them with satellite radio transmitters, according to the director of the Manku Project, a rescue group backed by the national avian research organization.

Little by little, Director Eduardo Pavez said, the birds should become more independent and fly longer distances. “We’ve put all of our effort, dedication and resources into helping these birds,” said Pavez in the press release.

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