The attempts to save the California Condor have been derided by critics who claim the money could have been better spent. They call the California Condor a “welfare species,” unable to survive without ongoing – and very expensive – assistance from humans.
Well what has actually happened is one of the greatest success stories in the history of protecting endangered species. If you review the population history of the condor, you will see that in 1982 when wildlife biologists first began capturing Condors to breed them in captivity, there were only 25 birds left in the wild.
From this low point of 25 birds, for over 20 years wildlife biologists have patiently worked to breed Condors and reintroduce them to the wild. For many of these years people questioned, often with ridicule, the wisdom of this program. But in early 2004 there were 215 living Condors, with 89 of them in the wild and 25 more about to be released. There are now dozens of breeding pairs in the wild and these birds are surviving on their own.
It’s easy to claim the millions that were spent – and are still being spent – to protect and save the Condor might have been better spent elsewhere. But if you see one of these ancient birds riding the updrafts along Central California’s wild coastline, with their 10 foot wingspans, you will probably be grateful, like I am, that enough people cared enough to keep this species alive.
There are many people who think environmentalism has gone too far, and often they are right – read “Ten Environmentalist Myths” for our take on this topic. But when it comes to the California Condor, the environmentalists were right. Read “Condor: To the Brink and Back” to learn more about this magnificant bird.