CUENCA DIGESTScientists report that condors have returned to the mountains near Cuenca; Parque de la Madre to open soon

Apr 16, 2013

After years with no reported sightings, two Cuenca ecologists say they are following three condors in the mountains near Cuenca.

Fausto Cardoso and Gustavo Landívar say they spotted the nest last year on a hiking trip and have been watching the family of the threatened spicies ever since. To protect the nesting area, Cardoso and Landivar are not revealing its location.

Cardoso says the nest is surrounded by dangerous cliffs. Cacti, acacia trees and bromelias dot the landscape, which is also home to mountain mice, snakes, spiders, foxes and guatusas. The scientists have to walk two hours from the outskirts of Cuenca to get to the location of the nest.

Condors were common in Azuay province until about 75 years ago but had not been seen for more than 50 years, according to sources at the University of Cuenca.

Cardoso and Landivar have named the female condor Soraya. She was the first bird they spotted, perched on a 250 meter high cliff. Days later, they noticed a condor chick that they named Arturo. They estímate its birthdate to be December 2011 or January 2012.

The scientists observed Arturo while he grew, shed his grey fluff and grew his first feathers. From January until August, the chick moved slowly and needed his mother. By October he was flying. “He’d spread his wings, soar and fight against the wind,” Cardoso says.

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By November, Arturo could fly as high as the highest mountains. Later in the month, the father showed up, and the ecologists named him Manuel. The three condors started to take flights together.

The condor is a scavenger and an indispensable part of the highlands ecosystem. The condor is on Ecuador's flag, but its population has been dwindling in the country in recent years. There are thought to be about 50 condors left in the Ecuadorian wild.


Parque de la Madre to open Friday, officials say

After several false starts, the city of Cuenca says that a renovated Parque de la Madre will finally open on Friday. The city had originally said the park would open in Janauary, and then in March. One of the city’s most popular public areas, the park is on Av. 12 de Abril, across Rio Tomebamba from the Hermano Miguel escalinata.

The contractor in charge of the 20-month reconstruction project says his crew is making final preparations, including replacing broken pavers, cutting grass and cleaning surfaces.

The park will have a new childrens’ playground, a world class running track, new athletic training facilities and a two-level parking garage for 200 vehicles. Other changes include new locations for the park’s name-sake statue of a mother with children, and of the statue of Jefferson Perez, Ecuador’s only Olympic gold medalist, who trained in the park.

The parking garage is the first of several that city officials hope will alleviate traffic congestion in the historic district. Others are planned at San Francsico Plaza, San Blas Plaza and elsewhere.

Cuenca complaint stops sale of Chinese tableware

A complaint by the Cuenca Chamber of Industries has resulted in the removal of Chinese-made tableware from Ecuador stores.

The Chamber’s claim that the Canvar brand of tableware contained excessive amounts of lead and cadmium was confirmed by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Quality Contol. The ministry said the level of heavy metals in the product was a danger to public health and asked customs police to stop future shipments of the tableware from entering the country. Ecuador has complained to Chinese authorities about the problem.

Chemist Rossana Fernández de Córdova of the Azuay Province Health Department, reported that lead can cause adverse health effects, including increased blood pressure, kidney damage and disruption of the nervous system. In children, it can cause decreased learning abilities, she said.

Photo caption: A condor in the mountains near Cuenca.

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