Anyone that works with animals will tell you that when you work with an animal long enough, they become part of your family. At some point a condor is not “just a condor,” but rather Fernando, the charismatic one that everyone loves. We loved and cared for Fernando like a member of our family. Unfortunately this attachment to our charges sometimes makes doing the right thing extremely difficult.
“Fernando” the Andean Condor arrived at Hawk Creek in 2002. He was originally part of a reintroduction program, but when his condor foster parents attacked him he suffered permanent leg and eye damage that rendered him non-releasable. For over a decade Fernando called Hawk Creek home. If you asked anyone that had visited the Center to name their three favorite animals, the condor was inevitably on that list. Fernando loved his job as an ambassador, as soon as he would hear visitors he would rush out to greet them with his enormous wings spread out and begin dancing.
Over the last several years however Fernando’s poor eyesight began to make life difficult for him. Since he refused to fly to get off the ground our cold snowy winters began to take their toll on him. Even our summers were difficult as he developed a fear of the sound of lawn mowers and weed trimmers. It was the decline in his quality of life in our climate that pushed us to do what was best for Fernando and send him to a larger facility with a much milder climate and a lot less grass.
In December staff drove Fernando halfway to his new home at Sia in Oklahoma. He traveled like a professional and made it to his new home without a hitch. Sia is a Comanche facility that is a worldwide leader in eagle conservation and a Native American feather bank. Here Fernando will continue to educate people about condors and his naturally molted feathers will be distributed to Native Americans for ceremonial purposes. Back at the Center his absence has created a hole for staff and volunteers that is only tolerable because of how much he was loved. The hardest part of our job is often putting our emotions and attachments to the side to do what is best for the animals we have devoted our lives to. We know our guests will miss Fernando as much as we do, but in the end we know we did what was best for him.