Hacienda Zuleta is our absolute favourite place in the Ecuadorian Andes and a highlight of many of our guests’ trips. Formerly a private home of Ecuadorean President Galo Plaza, it now provides visitors with a true taste of Andean life. Not only is it a unique place to stay but it’s also involved in vital conservation and community work through its charitable arm the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation.
A project particularly close to the team at Zuleta’s hearts is their work to protect the Andean Condor. They have been working tirelessly on this project for more than 20 years and yesterday shared some very exciting news with us, as they explain below:
“Over 20 years ago, when the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation of Hacienda Zuleta began the important work to turn around the decline of Andean Condors in Ecuador, there was one dream in mind. That dream was to be able to produce condor chicks in captivity at Zuleta, from mating pairs of other Condors, which were brought to Zuleta for care, and release them into the wild.
This is not easily done. Condors mate for life; they do not reach reproductive status until 7-8 years old and only produce one egg every 1-3 years. Over the past years we actually have had 4 chicks hatch in captivity at Zuleta, an incredible achievement alone, but each of these chicks has died before prematurely for various unanticipated reasons. Through the process however, the team learned a great deal about raising chicks in captivity, and Zuleta is now regarded worldwide as one of the leaders in this scientific endeavour. And even more than that, it has become a leader in this field by doing it in a different manner to other organizations, mainly funded and supported through tourism – your guests!
Last July, a male chick was hatched and it has thrived. Zuleta’s biologists are sure he is past any risky development stage and is responding very well to enrichment programmes getting him ready for release. This chick was named “Churi” which means “Son” in Quechua – so he is the “Son of Zuleta”. The plan is to release Churi later in the year, most likely in June or July. This is an incredible thing to be happening, the realisation of a 20 year old dream… But we are at a point where we need to ask for help from our friends and colleagues.
Prior to release we need to buy a full GPS tracking and monitoring system and have funds available to keep it working for up to two years. We need this in order to monitor and study Churi’s movements and safeguard him should he have issues during the adaptation period. The total cost of the equipment purchase and administration is USD$15,000, almost the full annual operating budget of the foundation.
Without this equipment, the last 20 years of work could be placed in a perilous situation overnight, not even mentioning the loss of research data we stand to gain from it that could be utilized for future releases – as we don’t plan on stopping until the wild population of Andean Condors in Ecuador is thriving.”
Hacienda Zuleta have started a crowdfunding campaign to raise this amount of funds through “Green Our Planet” – like a kickstarter for environmental campaigns. Green Our Planet was actually created by their good friend, Anthropologist and Author, Kim Macquarrie – many of you may know his book “The Last Days of the Incas”.
If you’d like to help Hacienda Zuleta in their vital conservation work, please visit their funding page at www.greenourplanet.org/condors and consider making a donation at whatever level you choose.
You really can make a difference!