A gigantic condor is fastened to the back of an agitated bull in front of a cheering audience at the Peruvian Blood Festival. It is a symbolic re-enactment of Peruvian freedom from Spanish control for many Peruvians. It is another hazard to one of the world’s biggest birds, according to experts.
Residents of the little community of Coyllurqui trek into the adjacent cliffs to catch a condor in preparation for this yearly festival, known as the Yawar Fiesta. It might then be kept for several weeks. When it comes time for the fight, though, the condor is given wine to drink and is tethered to the back of a half-ton bull in an arena. The beast then struggles to throw off the condor, as the massive bird tries to rip out the bull’s eyes.
The condor is a symbol of the Inca country, while the bull represents the strength of the Spanish conquistadors, according to these Andean people. Despite their Christian faith, the locals regard the condor as an Andean god who has descended from the sky to battle for their liberty. During the struggle, there is a lot at risk. If the condor is harmed, the locals feel it is a terrible sign for the next year, and the diminishing condor population suffers another blow.
Conservationists want to put a stop to the Yawar Fiesta so that the species can be protected. Many Peruvians, however, say they want to retain the annual celebration, which takes place on July 29, the day after Peru celebrates its independence.
Nobody knows how many condors exist in Peru, but the common belief is that there are 600 to 1,000 left, and their numbers are dropping. Condors, which can weigh up to 33 pounds and have a 10-foot wingspan, devour de.ad animals that may otherwise hold dangerous germs such as anthrax and botulism.
They have lengthy lives, sometimes reaching 75 years in captivity. However, they breed slowly, with only one chick born every other year. According to Michael Mace, curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, both parents are required to rear chicks, which require assistance for a full year. The condors are freed during the Yawar Fiesta, but no one knows what impact weeks in captivity and a battle with a bull have had on them. There was blood on the ground after this combat, which lasted less than 30 minutes. However, it was unclear if the sound came from the bull or the condor.
It’s unclear how many Yawar Fiestas are held each year, although it might be more than 50.
Farmers and ranchers pose the greatest thre.at to condors by shooting or poisoning them because they mistakenly believe the birds prey on cattle. In reality, condors are opportunists that feed on already de.cea.sed animals.
The condor was far from godlike during this year’s Yawar Fiesta in Coyllurqui, looking pretty pitiful. The cords that secured the bird’s feet were sewed into the bull’s skin, and the bird slumped down, flopping around as the matador agitated both beasts.
“It bothers me. I’m disappointed to see the bull and the condor “Geronimo Yucra Nininty, a festivalgoer, commented “I oppose animal cruelty.” According to Cecilia Larrabure, a photojournalist covering the festival, the Peruvian government prohibited the capturing of wild animals in the 1970s. There are rumblings in Lima that officials may begin enforcing such laws, she noted.
However, it is difficult to execute current legislation in rural areas such as Coyllurqui.
The town is about nine hours by bus from Cusco on a hilly dirt route with hairpin curves.
“I believe it is critical to safeguard the condor,” stated Coyllurqui Mayor Walter Bocangel Gamarra. “But we have these traditions and customs here. There is no fiesta if there is no condor.”