According to a press release I just received from Audubon California, the California Condor recovery effort is at a crossroads.
A recent report shows that lead in the environment — which nearly drove the condor to extinction — still blocks the huge bird from living in the wild without human support.
A concerted effort from government and non-profit agencies begun in the early 1980s to bring the California Condor back from the brink of extinction has been more successful than many in the field ever thought it would be, according to a report released last week from a blue ribbon panel of the American Ornithologists’ Union.
However, unless the primary threat to the condor — lead in its food chain — is removed, the endangered bird will continue to rely upon considerable support from humans if it is to survive.
The program, which initially removed condors from the wild and continues to rely on substantial human intervention and support, was considered highly controversial among experts when the last free-living condor was removed from the wild in 1987. After more than two decades of groundbreaking work, more than 300 California condors exist today, half of which are in the wild.
“The condor has really come a long way,” says Jeffrey Walters, PhD, chair of the AOU panel. “But just as it likely was poisoning from lead in the environment that brought the condor to the brink of extinction 20 years ago, it is certainly lead that today stands in the way of the condor surviving in nature without substantial support from humans.”
A BIGGER CAGE
In my opinion, unless the lead problem is remedied ASAP, the California condor recovery effort just isn’t going to work. All they’re doing is releasing those big birds into a BIGGER cage where it still needs human keepers to survive.
Condors rely on animal carcasses — including those left behind by hunters — for food, and they risk ingesting dangerously high levels of lead from bullets left in the meat. Given that hunters provide a much-needed source of food for the condors, the panel’s report calls for additional promotion of sport hunting for large game and depredation hunting for feral pigs in condor habitat, but at the same time it calls for the elimination of lead ammunition in the range of the condor — across state borders in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.
I think they need to go further than just a ban on lead bullets within the California condor range. They need stop messing around and to ban the use of lead bullets throughout the entire United States.
Get rid of lead bullets … period. /Gary
The full report, as well as a summary of its recommendations, can be read at http://www.aou.org