How Biologist & Captive Breeding Saved the California Condor

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.

California Condor

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.

Categorized | Animals, Birds
3 Responses to “How Biologist & Captive Breeding Saved the California Condor”
  1. B&Y says:

    there should be some funds to help, isn’t it.

  2. I find it interesting that you remark, at the end of this article on California Condor Conservation, about environmentalists going too far. It was the environmentalists, namely Daved Brower that pleaded to leave the Condor to a fate of dying in the wild. He coined a phrase widely picked up by the media at the time, ‘die with dignity’. It was the biologists and not whimsical environmental movement that saved this majestic and important species.
    Cheers, James Christian (worked on first release of condors in Arizona)
    Karisia Walking Safaris

  1. [...] It is easy to romanticize the beauty of nature, but along with saving the condors, this is a story from the world of animals that can’t help but touch the human heart. Environmentalists may go too far; sometimes their methods may be misplaced and their priorities misguided. But without them, there would be no more condors, and there would be no more whales, and the world would be poorer for their loss. To deride environmentalists for going too far is appropriate – but at the same time thank them, for cleaner air, cleaner water, and wilderness and wildlife that endures. Technorati Tags: cetacean, humpback whale [...]

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