The planet is short one centenarian this week after Hector, the world's oldest condor, passed away in Algeria at the ripe old age of 100. Experts say Hector's long life was quite a feat considering that the scavenging birds generally don't live past 50. But as impressive as his longevity was, Hector's entire species of condor has a place in the record books, too, for having the longest wingspan of any land bird on the planet. Perhaps those magnificent wings came in handy as Hector slipped the surly bonds of Earth to fly towards that great rotting carcass in the sky. According to the Algerian new agency APS, Hector died on Monday, but his history goes way back. He was brought from South America to Africa in the early part of the last century by Joseph D'Angelo, a Frenchmen who created a zoo there. Over the decades, Hector grew up to be one big bird, coming in at 33 pounds with a wingspan of over 10.5 feet.
Andean condors, like Hector, are considered the biggest flying birds in the world, as well as one of the longest-living. Typically, these condors have an impressive lifespan of about 50 years -- but Hector's days numbered far more than even that.
As the years wore on, Hector would eventually land a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, while animal experts, too, were amazed with his exceptionally long life. Dr. Faisal Haffaci, a veterinarian and former zoo director, accredits this longevity to Hector's strength and physique, as well as the zoo's favorable micro-climate.
But despite the bird's century of life, his decline came rather suddenly, says Abderrezak Zeriat, from the Experimental Garden of El Hamma where Hector lived. "The condor did not look well, since last week, and seemed very weak."
While Hector may have enjoyed a number of extra years, his wild Andean condor brethren haven't had it so easy. Although the bird is a national symbol in six South American countries, they're still under threat by human activity, much like nearly extinct California condor.
The experts may have their theories as to why Hector lived as long as he did, but the truth is that no one will ever know for certain. I imagine though, when you're born as bald, gaunt, and wrinkly as condors are, age really is just a number.