Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Success Story (of sorts)

California Condors are back.  This is, by the by, an amazing story - that has been a big part of my life.
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I remember growing up hearing the numbers fall every year, even as captive breeding programs grew.  In 1982 there were only 22 birds - total!.  In 1987 they gathered the few remaining wild birds and brought them in to enrich the genetic quality of the bird lines.  It was a divisive and controversial decision.  I mean, a lot of us thought they would never fly in the wild again.
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A Condor in the wild (it's a type of vulture)
The first time I ever gave money to a non-profit, just for them, not to buy something, was in the case of the CA Condor.  I remember showing Ed the far off flight aviaries at the LA Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal park.  You could see them in the distance, but not visit them.  The zoos wanted the birds to be afraid of people (poaching had once been a problem).
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They have an ugly beauty
I even once drove down to the San Diego Wild Animal park when a hatch-ling was born because you could watch it through one way glass - as a hand in a Condor puppet feed it.
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And they were introduced into the wild in California (Ventura), then Arizona.  There are 405 of the birds now.  Over 200 in the wild!  Sure, there are still problems - primarily lead poisoning from gunshots (they are vultures and pick at leftover hunter kills).  California outlaws lead ammo for just this reason - apparently the Utah birds are being poisoned now.  By they will figure it out.
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One of the big questions, was "Is it worth it to save these birds?"  After all, it was hugely expensive.  But I think it was.  It taught a generation of Californians (and others) that good works get results.  And, if enough people are dedicated, we can help nature.  Particularly if we (people) are what put it out of wack.
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Since Condors, a number of other species from the California Zoos have been introduced back into the Wild.  Bongos in Africa, Golden Lion Tamarinds in Brazil.  The San Diego and Los Angeles Zoos learned and shared a lot of knowledge about reintroduction.  I am proud to have been a small part of it.

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