On 16 February 2002, biologists from The Peregrine Fund will release between six and eight of the 11 California Condors on top of the Vermilion Cliffs near the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. The remaining condors will be released at a later date.
This will be the tenth release of North America's largest bird in northern Arizona since the project started in December 1996. The addition of 11 condors will increase the population of free-flying California Condors in Arizona to 36. Ten of the 11 condors hatched at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in 2001 and one hatched at the San Diego Zoo in 1999. Seven are males and four are females. All 11 arrived at the release site 27 November 2001 and have been held in a large flight pen so they could acclimate and socialize with the 25 free-flying condors that return to the release area.
"The recovery of the California Condor continues to make steady progress," stated Bill Burnham, Ph.D., President of The Peregrine Fund. "The keys to this progress are the habitat and community support provided in the Grand Canyon area," finished Burnham.
"We are excited to have these additional birds join the free-ranging condors in Arizona," said Duane Shroufe, Director, Arizona Game and Fish Department. "It's another solid step toward recovery of this treasured element of Arizona's wildlife heritage. We are indeed fortunate to have conservation partners such as we have in this project. We are also fortunate that Arizona citizens have chosen to provide Heritage Funds to help defray our costs. It takes time, money, knowledge, perseverance, and strong public support to restore species such as the condor."
"Recovery efforts for the California Condor in northern Arizona have been an overwhelming success in terms of numbers of birds surviving in the wild. This success is due in large part to the hard work and cooperation of local supporters, The Peregrine Fund biologists, tribes, industry groups, and State and Federal agencies. Our excitement continues to grow as we prepare to release six to eight more captive-bred birds and we anxiously await the first successful breeding and egg hatching of condors in the wild since the early 80s," said David Harlow, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Arizona Field Supervisor.
"The release of these condors clearly illustrates the value of protecting this spectacular Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and its objects of scientific interests," stated Roger Taylor, Manager for the Arizona Strip BLM. "We are pleased to host the return of these impressive birds to public lands," finished Taylor.
Since their arrival, the condors have been acclimating to each other and to their new surroundings in a release facility on top of the cliff. At the time of the release the birds will know how to fly (fledging occurs at about six months of age) but are expected to stay close to the release site and explore their new home slowly. Regular updates are being provided on The Peregrine Fund's home page (www.peregrinefund.org).
The historic Arizona reintroduction is a joint project between The Peregrine Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Game and Fish, National Park Service, Southern Utah's Coalition of Resources and Economics, and numerous other partners. The Peregrine Fund, a non-profit conservation organization, is conducting and securing the funding for the release, the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management are managing the habitat, Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the overall recovery of the species, and the Arizona Game and Fish is responsible for all wildlife in Arizona.
The California Condors are being released as a "non-essential/experimental population" under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. Section 10(j) provides that the species can be released in an area without impacting current or future land use planning. This authority has been spelled out further in an innovative agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local governments. This "Implementation Agreement" spells out a positive working relationship between the Federal government and the various local governments.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is completing a formal review of the California Condor reintroduction program in Arizona, now in its sixth year. "We've enjoyed meeting with local citizens and officials and Federal land managers to better understand their concerns regarding management of the condors and how the program may be affecting their communities," said Jeff Humphrey, the Service's Condor Reintroduction Coordinator. Input from the conservation and scientific communities was also sought. "We are continually learning how to refine our recovery efforts and strengthen public acceptance of the condor recovery program."
On 1 February 2002 there were 183 California Condors in the world; 58 of those are in the wild in California and Arizona.
For more information, contact:
Director of Global Engagement