When I was reading last week about the attempt to save the nearly extinct vaquita porpoise, I was reminded of the huge conservation effort for the California condor. As a kid growing up in California, the effort was well publicized; many thought the birds would become extinct. There were so few left, all the wild birds were captured to start a captive breeding program. No one knew if it would succeed. When many chicks started to be born in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the program was determined successful; later chicks were released into the wild to continue a wild as well as a captive population. Today there are only about 400 condors in the wild, and there is still work to do to protect the species, but this program worked to save this beautiful and important bird.
The historic range for the condor used to be all over the southwest, from California to Texas. Condors were often shot or poisoned by early settlers, and their habitat was reduced due to human development. More recently, pesticides and lead in bullets (condors are carrion feeders and consume lead in animals that have been shot) have lead to their decline.
Click here for more info on the Condor and past conservation efforts.