Restoring the California Condor

The Peregrine Fund - 10639

Long before humans arrived in North America, these finely tuned scavengers relied in part on large predator hunters for carrion. Despite efforts to recover this endangered species through captive breeding, release, and monitoring, this work faces a new challenge: preventable lead poisoning. But like these giants of the sky, we’re learning to rely on the hunting community to change the future. The California Condor is a hardy species that survived mass extinctions of the last Ice Age, yet the entire population was reduced to just 22 individuals by the 1980s. Scientists suspected that lead poisoning played a role in the species’ decline. Recent research by The Peregrine Fund (TPF) confirmed that over half of all condor deaths are due to this preventable cause. The ‘aha’ moment occurred when TPF x-rayed deer harvested with common lead-based bullets; a constellation of tiny fragments appear in the tissue surrounding the bullet’s path. Not only do California Condors ingest this lead, it’s evident that many other species, even humans, may be exposed to lead-tainted meat. Like the canary in the coal mine, the California Condor has alerted us to an unforeseen and preventable hazard. To address this, TPF formed a North American Non-Lead Partnership, whose sole purpose is to reach hunters, shooters, and other sporting and conservation groups with information about preventing lead poisoning. Thanks to TPF’s work with Arizona and Utah wildlife agencies over the last decade, more than 80% of deer hunters on Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau now take voluntary actions to prevent lead exposure. Their conservation ethic will inspire others to make the switch to copper -- but this message needs to spread to a wider audience. Because of TPF a free-flying population numbering 90 condors has been re-established from the Grand Canyon into Utah. TPF performs annual health-checks on as many condors as possible. The world population of California Condors continues to grow slowly, with more than 400 now in existence. More than half live in the wilderness, ready to fill their niche as skilled scavengers, if only we can make their world a little safer.

Charity Name
Peregrine Fund
Photo Caption
Peregrine in flight
Photo Credit
The Peregrine Fund