Peru's Andean Condors Are Rising Tourist Attraction

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In the Purimac region of southeastern Peru, villagers tie a condor to a bull's back for traditional bullfights, which are held during annual Yawar Fiesta celebrations. The condors kills the bulls and are then set free. (The condors symbolize Inca resistance; the bulls, the Spanish conquistadors.)

Such festivals are not held in the Colca Canyon, however, and hunting and trapping of condors there is rare, according to Romaña, the Peruvian conservationist.

Tourist Threat?

Romaña said the greatest threat to the condors in Colca Canyon today comes from the busloads of tourists who arrive every morning at the Condor Cross overlook, park in what he calls "inadequate" parking lots, and leave a few hours later.

According to Romana, the uncontrolled tourism threatens to crowd out the condors from this traditional feeding ground.

The conservationist hopes to establish a national sanctuary to protect the condors in the canyon.

A decade ago, just a few thousand tourists made the trip from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon, while last year 60,000 made the journey, according to Romaña. He said he once thought the increased tourism would be a boon to the region's conservation. Now Romaña is less certain.

"It is a latent danger if it is not controlled," he said. "Neither the authorities nor the tourism operators have the concept or intention of protection."

To help protect the birds and promote responsible tourism, Romaña and a local architect have presented the Peruvian Ministry of Tourism with a plan for development of the Condor Cross that they say will reduce pressures on the birds.

The plan calls for what Romana terms adequate parking spaces for tourist buses and the construction of unobtrusive viewing areas for human visitors that preserve the natural characteristics of the canyon overlook.

Romaña also recommends that tourists visit the canyon with accredited tourist agencies, which he says are easily identifiable by price. "Today there are many agencies that offer irresponsible service at bargain rates," Romana said.

For more bird news, scroll down.

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