Biologists from The Peregrine Fund will release seven California Condors on top of the Hurricane Cliffs near the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona on 7 December 1999. This will be the fifth Arizona release of North America's largest bird since December of 1996. These additional seven condors will increase the population of California Condors flying free in Arizona to 27. Two additional California Condors will remain in the release aviary for a few weeks.
"The recovery of the California Condor continues to make steady progress," 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.
"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 nine more captive-bred birds and we anxiously await the first breeding of wild condors," said David Harlow, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Arizona Field Supervisor.
"The release of these condors adds to the diversity of activities that are found on public lands," 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.
Because of the success of the project, a second release site at Hurricane Cliffs was established for the 1998 release. The site is approximately 60 miles west of the original release location at Vermilion Cliffs and 35 miles southeast of St. George, UT. The second site provides the younger condors the opportunity to fly and feed on their own before interacting with the older condors. Six months after the 1998 release some of the Hurricane condors found some of the Vermilion condors in the Grand Canyon. Although some of the Hurricane condors have been to the Vermillion Cliffs' site, the Vermilion condors have yet to visit the Hurricane Cliffs' site.
"We are excited to have the additional condors in Arizona and feel that this brings us closer to recovery of the species," stated Chris Parish, Wildlife Specialist, Arizona Game and Fish.
The nine condors were hatched at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey and the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Eight hatched in 1999 and one hatched in 1995. Three are males and six are females. All nine arrived at the release site November 8, 1999.
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, various local governments, and industries.
There are currently 160 California Condors in the world -- 47 in the wild in California and Arizona and 113 in captive breeding facilities (World Center for Birds of Prey, Zoological Society of San Diego, and Los Angeles Zoo).
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