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By Monica Machicao

LA PAZ, Colombia, Fri. Feb 26, 2021 (Reuters) – Two giant Andean condors have been released back to the Bolivia wilds – with GPS trackers attached – after they were found ill with signs of poisoning and nursed back to health.

Bolivian rangers set free the birds, which can grow as long as 4 feet (1.2 m), with a wingspan of 10.5 feet, and are classified as “vulnerable.”

They took off from wooden boxes into an overcast sky amid mountainous peaks.

“It’s emotional to see them fly again and that the work has borne fruit,” said ranger Grace Ledezma.

There are some 6,700 Andean condors worldwide but numbers are falling, hurt by issues from lead poisoning to habitat loss and hunting.

Earlier this month, authorities in Bolivia opened an investigation after finding 35 dead Andean condors an hour and a half from the city of Tarija, on the border with Argentina.

With the freed birds, they are taking precautions.

“Following a traditional ceremony we freed these condors with a GPS attached,” said Lucio Limachi, mayor of local town Palca. “It will help us in the corresponding scientific controls. We have various specialists to monitor them.”

(Reporting by Monica Machicao; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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