The endangered Aplomado Falcon will take another step toward recovery with the 600th young falcon released to the wild in Texas. Nesting pairs of Aplomado Falcons had been extirpated from the United States from the 1950s until 1995. Today, thanks to cooperative recovery efforts led by The Peregrine Fund, there are at least 33 nests in the wild. This success is due to the reintroduction of captive raised Aplomado Falcons by The Peregrine Fund with the cooperation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the private sector.
The 600th Aplomado Falcon will be flown from the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in south Texas. On June 25, a ceremony will mark the bird's upcoming release to the wild. The falcon will spend the next six to eight weeks acclimating to life in the wild through a process called "hacking" developed by falconers and used by The Peregrine Fund in reestablishing Peregrine Falcons to the wild. This 600th Aplomado Falcon is one of more than 100 that will be released into the wild in 2001 and one of 20 included on this flight.
"The release of the 600th Aplomado Falcon is symbolic of the success of this species' recovery effort. Since 1995 we have been able to increase the population of Aplomado Falcons in the United States from zero to more than 33 pairs," stated J. Peter Jenny, Vice President of The Peregrine Fund. "The recovery goal set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is 60 pairs so we're well on our way!"
"Partnerships are the key to restoring the Aplomado Falcon and other endangered species," said Bryan Arroyo, Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We applaud the work of The Peregrine Fund, the Coast Guard, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and other organizations, but I particularly want to thank the landowners who stepped forward to volunteer for this historic effort."
"We are proud to see this program soaring to success in Texas," said Gary Graham, Wildlife Division Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife. "The Peregrine Fund's work in many areas, from captive breeding, to working cooperatively with landowners, to Safe Harbor Agreements, to smarter release strategies, has made this a true endangered species success story." Graham noted that this is the second year that Texas Parks and Wildlife has provided funding as well as logistical support and permits to help transport falcons to Texas for release into the wild.
In the 1800s, the Aplomado Falcon was a relatively common part of the landscape. It perched atop Yuccas and in the crowns of scattered trees that rose from the green and yellow prairies. The falcons chased the abundant birds that thrived in the seed-grasses. The species declined dramatically during the early part of this century and was gone as a breeding species in the 1950s. Until The Peregrine Fund's recovery effort was initiated, the last known breeding of this species in the United States occurred in Deming, New Mexico in 1952.
Much of the success of this endangered species effort stems from the implementation of a "Safe Harbor" agreement between local landowners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Peregrine Fund. The agreement provides a "safe harbor" for the species and a "safe harbor" for landowners who are concerned about having an endangered species on their property. By agreeing to maintain the "baseline" of Aplomado Falcons, no other restrictions are placed on the use of the property. Property owners are provided an "incidental take" permit for any Aplomado Falcon lost above their baseline.
The recovery of the Aplomado Falcon is primarily a private sector initiative. Supporters include the Bass Foundation, The Brown Foundation, the Kleberg Foundation, Ruth Mutch, the Houston Endowment, Turner Foundation, ExxonMobil Foundation, American Electric Power, The Tapeats Fund, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Jane Smith Turner Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and many others.
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