Twelve California Condors Go to Grand Canyon Area for Release
27 November 2001
Eleven California Condors will be transported to a new home on public land on Arizona's Vermilion Cliffs, near the Grand Canyon, on 27 November 2001. Ten of the condors hatched this year at The Peregrine Fund's breeding facility in Boise, the other is a female that hatched in 1999 and was brought back into captivity on 11 April 2000 due to her interaction with humans. Biologists have been observing this condor in captivity for over a year and a half and now feel that she is ready to be re-released.
The condors will be transported from Boise, Idaho to Page, Arizona on a U.S. Forest Service fire plane being provided by the Bureau of Land Management. From Marble Canyon they will be taken to the specially designed release aviary on top of the Vermilion Cliffs. Release is expected in early 2002, after the condors have acclimated to their new surroundings. This release will increase the population of California Condors in the Grand Canyon area from 25 to 36.
"There are now 12 condors in Arizona that are old enough to pair up," stated Dr. William A. Burnham, President of The Peregrine Fund. "Since an egg was laid by a pair last year, we feel that we are on the brink of condors breeding in the wild. Once this occurs, it would be the first condor reproduced in the wild since 1986 and would be further confirmation that the recovery effort is on track," finished Burnham.
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 Department, National Park Service (NPS), CORE (Coalition of Resources and Economies), and numerous other partners. The Peregrine Fund, a non-profit conservation organization headquartered in Boise, Idaho, is largely funding and conducting the release; BLM and NPS are managing the habitat; USFWS is responsible for the overall recovery of the species; and the Arizona Game and Fish Department is responsible for all wildlife in Arizona. Regular updates from the field are being provided by biologists on The Peregrine Fund's home page.
California Condors are being released in Arizona as a "nonessential experimental population" under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. This experimental designation allows for condor reintroduction in the area without impacting current or future land uses or planning (except for in National Park Service land where they are protected as a threatened species). This authority has been described further in an innovative implementation agreement between the Service and local governments. This "Implementation Agreement" describes, a positive working relationship between the Federal government and various local governments.
The Service is presently conducting a formal review of the California Condor reintroduction program in Arizona, now in its fifth 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 has also been solicited. "We are anxious to receive input from a variety of perspectives so that we can refine our recovery efforts and strengthen public acceptance of the condor recovery effort."
There are currently 183 California Condors in the world, 57 in the wild in California and Arizona and 126 in captive breeding facilities (World Center for Birds of Prey, Zoological Society of San Diego, and Los Angeles Zoo).