Biologists from The Peregrine Fund will release eight California Condors on top of the Hurricane Cliffs near the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona on 18 November. This will be the fourth release of North America's largest bird since December of 1996. These additional eight condors will increase the population of California Condors flying free in Arizona to 22.
"This release is another step toward the recovery of the California Condor and we are pleased to initiate a second release site on the Hurricane Cliffs," stated Bill Burnham, Ph.D., President of The Peregrine Fund. "The key is the habitat and community support provided in the Grand Canyon area," finished Burnham.
"After a 70-year absence, we are pleased to have gone from a population of zero to 22 California Condors in Arizona in just two years," stated Roger Taylor, Director of the Arizona Strip District for the Bureau of Land Management.
Because of the success of the project, a second release site was established for the 1998 release. The site is approximately 60 miles from the Vermilion Cliffs on the Hurricane Cliffs. Biologists feel that the two populations will be drawn together over the next few months or years but not until the 1998 condors are older and are better able to fly with existing condors, some of which are four years old. Public viewing opportunities of the existing wild condors are available near the Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona.
"We are excited to have the additional eight condors in Arizona and feel that this brings us closer to recovery of the species," stated Chris Parish, Wildlife Specialist, Arizona Game and Fish. "We would welcome the public to take advantage of the year-round public viewing opportunities," concluded Parish.
"We are thrilled with the success of the condor reintroduction program in the southwest," said Jeff Humphrey, Fish and Wildlife Service's Southwest Condor Recovery Coordinator. "The birds have a great survivorship rate, and are becoming savvy in the wild, and have been embraced by the people of Arizona and Utah," finished Humphrey.
Six of the California Condors hatched at the World Center for Birds of Prey and two hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo in 1998. One hatched at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in 1996 and will be released at the Vermilion Cliffs site in late November. All nine condors arrived at the Hurricane Cliffs site on a Bureau of Land Management plane on 7 and 8 October 1998.
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. The birds are fed carrion daily. 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.
The historic Arizona release is a joint project between The Peregrine Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Arizona Game and Fish, CORE (Coalition of Resources and Economies), and numerous other partners. The Peregrine Fund, a non-profit conservation organization headquartered in Boise, Idaho, is funding and conducting the release; BLM is managing the habitat; USFWS is responsible for the overall recovery of the species; and the Arizona Game and Fish is responsible for all wildlife in Arizona. Regular updates are being provided by biologists on The Peregrine Fund's home page (http://www.peregrinefund.org).
The California Condors are being released as a "non-essential/experimental population" under section 10j of the Endangered Species Act. Section 10j 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.
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