© AconcaguaNews
Two sick condors, male and female, being cared for at a vet clinic in the city of Los Andes, Chile.
Los Andes - 17 condors with apparent symptoms of poisoning were rescued by travelers en route to the crossing of the Andes from Santiago to Mendoza.

Witnesses said a large number of birds were flying erratically and several collapsed while trying to land on rocks.

Two of the birds died electrocuted in power lines and other collided with rocks on the hills. Bystanders and Chilean uniformed police personnel (Carabineros) rescued 17 birds, 10 males and 7 females, of various ages.

The birds were taken to a veterinary clinic in the city of Los Andes for assessment and recovery.

Six of the birds which were in worse condition were later transferred to Santiago Zoo facilities for intensive care.

According to the veterinary staff of the Agriculture and Livestock Service of Chile (SAG), the birds showed obvious symptoms of poisoning, including diarrhea and phlegm in their beaks.

According AconcaguaNews (in Spanish) Police Lieutenant Gabriela Aravena said:
"People coming down the international road between Chile and Argentina reported that a large number of condors were flying very low in the mountains, situation that caused the birds to collide with the rocks ..."
Lieutenant Aravena also noted that the number of sick or dead birds could rise as witnesses observed over 25 birds hovering overhead with clear signs of being sick. Notably, travelers who were en route from the city of Los Andes to "Los Libertadores" Pass, took several sick birds to the vet clinic in their own vehicles.

SAG reported that the cause of the poisoning and death of birds will be investigated. Possible causes could be drinking water contaminated by mining activities, the ingestion of organophosphate compounds (insecticide) used in agriculture, or eating a dead cow found in the area that had been sprayed with toxic chemicals.

The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) is one of the largest birds in the world. The condor is the official symbol of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. With a wing-span of near 3 meters (up to 10 feet), the birds range throughout the Andes Mountains, Patagonia, and the coastal regions of western South America. Andean condors are scavengers and they may travel up to 150 miles a day in search of carrion, which they locate primarily by sight. Once condors reach high altitudes, they ride on thermal currents and rarely flap their long, wide wings.