National Geographic : 1971 May
Condor calisthenics on the rim of Rio Pasto canyon: A few days after capturing Gronk, the author holds the bird aloft to exercise his wings; many more months must pass before Gronk will be able to fly. Morning fog envelops the valley below this desolate plain. Nearly five feet of rainfalls annually on these mile-high uplands, but vegetation is so sparse on the eroded land that only the hardiest of cattle can survive. The days of Gronk's kind in Colombia like ly are numbered. When we left the Rio Pasto canyon, work had just begun on a new section of the Pan American Highway that would cut through the heart of this condor retreat and drive the birds away (map, page 691). In general, however, encroachment by the bur geoning human population poses a less imme diate threat than hunters' guns. The condor's large size and steady flight make him a tempt ing target. Some persons count him a major trophy. Others kill for a different reason. Condor Friend Meets a Condor Foe On a hike along a canyon trail one day I almost collided with an Indian carrying a vintage shotgun. He asked what I was doing. "Looking for condors," I answered. "Where's your gun?" "I'm not shooting them, I'm studying them." 700 He shook his head incredulously. "Have you shot any condors?" I asked. "Yes. They're good eating. Each has three kinds of meat. One tastes like horse, another like beef, and the third like condor." "How does the 'condor' condor taste?" "Well, like ... ah ... condor. You'll just have to eat it to see." "Twenty-five pounds of condor is a lot of meat. Do you eat it all yourself?" "No," he answered. "I sell part of it. I sell the heart and bones and stomach for medi cines. I grind the bones; the powder is good for curing rheumatism and paralysis. The in side of the stomach cures breast cancer. The heart is good for everything." Peruvian and Bolivian highlanders believe dried, pulverized condor heart cures epilepsy and cardiac defects. The eyes are roasted and eaten to correct human eye ailments.