Four endangered California Condors began the longest flight of their lives today when they were transported from Southern California to The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho as part of the captive breeding program directed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and designed to recover this critically endangered species. Four additional condors will arrive on the same plane tomorrow.
The four condors began their journey at 10:00 a.m. today when they were transported by van from the San Diego Wild Animal Park to the San Diego Airport and put on a plane and transported to Boise. To transport the condors, a specially equipped plane was provided by Con-Yan Aviation of Boise. The second group of four will make a similar trek tomorrow from the Los Angles Zoo.
This is the second group of condors to leave California since they were restricted to the area around the Sespe Condor Sanctuary on the Los Padres National Forest in California near the turn of the century. The first group to leave California was on 23 September 1993 when 12 condors arrived at the World Center for Birds of Prey.
The California Condors are being recovered as part of the Endangered Species Act which mandates that endangered species have a recovery plan designed to restore species on the verge of extinction. There are only two other California Condor breeding facilities in the world, one at the Los Angeles Zoo and the other at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. In addition to adding the World Center's expertise to the project, a third facility will eliminate overcrowding at the other two facilities, and protect genetic diversity.
The Peregrine Fund, which operates the World Center for Birds of Prey, was selected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in November of 1992. Construction of a 17,000 square foot breeding facility was completed in 1993. Funds for the facility were provided by the FWS and Peter and Conni Pfendler. In addition, the Boise Water Corporation donated equipment and manpower for construction of a fire and water system. These eight condors add to the twelve already at the World Center for Birds of Prey and brings the facility up to capacity.
"We are excited about working with the California Condor," said Dr. Bill Burnham, President of The Peregrine Fund. "The Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park have done excellent work with the recovery program and we look forward to participating," said Burnham.
"Special thanks to Con-Yan Aviation for the use of the specially equipped plane" said Burnham. "The extra ventilation and the veterinarian on board greatly reduces the risks involved in this transfer," said Burnham.
"The Peregrine Fund is a world renowned conservation organization and their expertise will benefit the program," said Michael Spear, Pacific Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "A third facility has alleviated the overcrowding problems at the other two facilities and protects the genetic diversity of the species," said Spear.
California Condors, like humans, are survivors of the Ice Age and once populated a large part of North America. In addition to the Grand Canyon, their habitat probably included the Columbia Gorge, Hells Canyon, and much of the southwestern United States. Loss of habitat, indiscriminate shooting, and poisoning reduced the number of condors to only 27 in 1987, when the last free-flying condor was captured and placed in the captive breeding program.
Currently, there are 88 California Condors in existence. Three are in the wild at the Los Padres National Forest in California and the remainder are at the three breeding facilities: the World Center for Birds of Prey, the Los Angeles Zoo, and the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Of the eight birds being transported to the World Center, four are from the San Diego Wild Animal Park and four are from the Los Angeles Zoo. The approximate age of the California Condors is from one to four years of age and they are expected to begin breeding as early as 1997.
The Peregrine Fund is a non-profit conservation organization based in Boise, Idaho. It is best known for its efforts to recover the Peregrine Falcon in the United States. Since that time the restoration techniques developed for the Peregrine Falcon have been adapted for use on a variety of other species, including the Mauritius Kestrel, Bald Eagle, California Condor, Philippine Eagle, Aplomado Falcon, `Alala or Hawaiian Crow, and a variety of others. In addition, the organization has other programs around the world that are preserving endangered environments (e.g. forests, wetlands, etc.) and are also improving local people's conservation ability.
For more information, contact:
Director of Global Engagement