The California Condor: Back from the Brink
by Dyami Rodriguez, age 15
An endangered species has made a great comeback: a bird called the California condor. The California condor was heading towards extinction, but with the help of zoos and a reproduction program in Los Angeles and San Diego, they are now repopulating and living on their own.
Taking care of the condors was no easy task. Workers at the zoos fed the chicks by using condor-looking puppets. These puppets were also used to raise the chicks for a short time of their life. Once the condors had grown to maturity, they were released into the wild, but this species reintroduction was not easy either. Adult condors often electrocuted themselves on power lines, drank antifreeze, ate lead-contaminated meat, and were also hunted. Scientists wondered if these birds were ever going to live in the wild, or if they would remain dependent on the protection of humans.
In 2007, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger banned lead ammunition in a territory he set aside for condors. Chicks in the area were being taught to stay away from power lines and hunt for their own food by their parents. In 2008, there were more condors in the wild than in captivity. Now condors have also moved into regions such as the Grand Canyon and Baja California.
The success of the condors is a great accomplishment for scientists. More recently, government support of endangered species has dwindled. The support and recovery efforts are expensive for species like the California condor. It cost money to rescue and train the condors, and also eliminated the possibility of commercial activity in the condors' natural habitat, like logging in Los Padres National Forest. Such factors introduce difficulty in successfully helping these animals.
Despite the financial obstacles, the condor species is recovering and returning to its original territories. Their endurance serves as an inspiration for scientists and communities alike.
[Sources: Wisconsin State Journal; California Department of Fish and Wildlife]