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The condors at the end of the world: Paula Perrig’s research on Andean Condors in Patagonia

November 8, 2021

Andean Condor soaring. Photo by Joe Riis.

Vultures are uniquely valuable to human society for their abilities to quickly find and consume carcasses; this in turn helps control the spread of infectious and parasitic diseases, as well as the abundance of opportunistic scavengers such as dogs and rats. Despite these services, vultures are now among the most threatened group of birds in the world. South America’s Andean Condors are apex scavengers as well as endangered species, with decreasing population trends range-wide. Their declines are attributed to human activities including persecution and unintentional poisoning, and their consequences remain unexplored. To address this gap, IBCP is pleased to support Dr. Paula Perrig’s research in Patagonia, Argentina, on how the presence of condors affects carrion persistence and the structure of scavenging assemblages, as part of her postdoctoral research for CONICET.

Paula Perrig monitoring carrion as part of her condor research. Photo courtesy of Paula Perrig.

Paula’s project, entitled “Ecological role of an apex scavenger, the Andean Condor,” has received an IBCP Partnership Grant for 2021-2022. One of the largest – yet declining – populations of Andean Condors is present in northern Patagonia. Here, condors roost and nest in the Andes and make daily flights to the east to feed upon carcasses in the Patagonian steppe. Paula will use the natural restriction in the distribution of condors to investigate carrion consumption where condors are present compared to areas where they are absent, using camera traps at sheep ranches. She will also monitor carcass consumption in a national park with condors, as compared to that in a national park without condors, in the Patagonian steppe. Her findings will provide novel information on both the ecological role of condors under different land uses and the ecosystem services they provide. They will also elucidate the importance of vultures for human well-being and biodiversity conservation.

Andean Condors scavenging carrion. Photo courtesy of Paula Perrig.

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