In response to a comment on their recent review article about the state of knowledge and conservation of the Andean condor (published in November 2020), Dr Pablo Plaza and Dr Sergio Lambertucci have described several examples of how increased scientific knowledge has directly informed conservation actions. The Editorial article was published online in the Biological Conservation journal in December 2020.
Scientific Research helps influence conservation and policy actions
The authors describe how the relatively recent increase in scientific research on Andean condors by South American scientists and in collaboration with researchers from overseas has resulted in useful information that has been included in conservation action plans to inform the implementation of conservation measures. Their recent review identified poisoning and lead contamination among the main threats to Andean condors, which corresponds with the threats to most vulture species across the planet.
In South America many different researchers, NGOs and other partners have worked hard to highlight the benefits of scavenging birds to the wider ecosystem through scientific research, as well as the impacts of poisoning on their populations. The results directly influenced the Argentinian government’s decision to pass a long-awaited national resolution to ban the use of carbofuran, the pesticide used most widely to kill carnivores and scavengers.
Similarly, their assessments of lead contamination in condors and the identification of the primary source as lead hunting ammunition facilitated the introduction of a resolution to ban lead ammunition in protected areas in Argentina and encourage the use of non-lead alternatives.
Understanding stakeholder motivations enhances collaboration
Engagement with and active participation by a range of local stakeholders is often the key to success in wildlife conservation. Research into the causes of negative interactions between livestock farmers and predators or scavengers, and subsequent recommendations for how to mitigate these conflicts, is now being put into practice to reduce the risks of retaliatory or preventative killings. Similarly, researchers are working with NGOs, government authorities and other partners to reduce the impacts on Andean condors of feral dogs, illegal shooting, urban developments, and recreational activities (e.g. rock climbing).
These examples all demonstrate the value of scientific research in informing realistic conservation actions that can and should, according to the authors, be adapted to local conditions and scenarios. Importantly, the article highlights the importance of timely publication and clear communication of research results to bridge the gap between science, conservation and policy. This includes the translation of research into local languages, which is often a limitation of scientific research.
We at VCF congratulate this research group (Grupo de Investigaciones en Biología de la Conservación, INIBIOMA-CONICET, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Argentina) and their partners for once again demonstrating the value of scientific knowledge for planning and implementing effective measures to conserve vultures and condors.