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California condor: The ongoing battle to save this great bird

By Gary Bogue
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 at 8:27 am in California condors.

Calif. condor cruising over Grand Canyon. Photo by Flickr user IvyMike used under a Creative Commons License.
condor1 IvyMike

The Nov. 20 issue of  Scientific American highlighted the endangered California condor’s extreme danger in the face of lead poisoning, and the work of the Center of Biological Diversity as the organization tries to do something about it.

Although numerous Arizona hunters — about 70 percent — are voluntarily using nonlead bullets to protect the birds (thanks to state incentives and education), lead bullets are still legal within the condor range. Any condor that scavenges carrion shot with just one of these lead bullets can die from lead poisoning — currently the number-one threat to the species, which was brought almost to extinction in the 1980s.

Calif. condor perching in Grand Canyon. Photo by Flickr user IvyMike used under a Creative Commons License.
condor2 IvyMike

“It doesn’t take many hunters using lead ammo to poison a significant number of birds,” said the Center’s Jeff Miller in an interview. “One flock of birds on a carcass can create an immediate crisis.”

The Center and allies’ “Get the Lead Out” campaign won a requirement for nonlead ammunition throughout the condor’s range in California in 2007. Now, the Center is working to expand that requirement nationally. But the National Rifle Association (NRA) denies lead poisoning hurts condors, and the group has hired lobbyists and lawyers to stop the Center and others from making other states lead-free.

Read more on this ongoing battle in Scientific American at

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