Conservation Success Story: California Condor


Conservation efforts are continuously underway to help out various species of animals that are endangered or treacherously close to extinction. Many times, these animals go extinct anyway and there isn’t much we can do to reverse the damage already caused. However, there are times when a true success story occurs. One of the most well-known is the story of the California condor, pulled back from the brink of extinction over the last few years. Along the way, there were many challenges that had to be overcome, but the condors did it.

The plight of the condors

Not an attractive creature, the California condor is the largest bird in North America, though that almost become an outdated fact. These condors once roamed across the western part of the United States, but as humans destroyed their habitat, hunted them, and indirectly poisoned them with lead, the birds were not doing well. They have wingspans of around 10 feet and majestically soar through the sky. They can even live up to 60 years old and are considered sacred by Native Americans.

In the late 70s, the California condor almost became extinct because only a couple dozen of the birds were left. There are various issues that led to this decline, but it’s difficult to pinpoint one overarching reason for the near extinction of these great birds. Researchers have also learned from fossils that the condor populations were significantly depleted even before Europeans came to the United States, likely because they were running out of abundant food sources. When people first began paying attention to the plight of the California condor, the future looked bleak.

Methods used to save their population

At first, no one was sure what to do to help out the California condor. The condor reproduced only after they were mature around eight years old and had one egg every couple of years. Scientists first began removing eggs from nests to raise in captivity, because the loss of an egg often prompted a condor to lay another that year. Soon, there were programs for breeding in captivity as well and the condor received protection from the Endangered Species Act.

By the late 80s, only around 10 condors remained. That was when drastic measures were taken and all birds were taken into captivity. Within a few years, scientists began reintroducing condors into the wild, though noticed captive born condors didn’t function well in the wild and many birds were still dying. Methods of raising the baby condors had to be drastically changed and mirror more closely how adult condors raised their young. Eventually, scientists saw success.

How condors are thriving today

After hard work, the condors are doing better than they have in decades. Now, there are nearly 500 condors and around half of them live in the wild. California condors have even begun laying eggs and raising chicks in the wild. There is still a long way to go for this species to be completely stable, but through careful attention from experts and concerned citizens, condors should be well on their way to frequenting the western skies once again.