Emergency Support Needed for California Condors
Avian Influenza Update | May 16–We are happy to report more good news as spring takes hold in Arizona and Idaho. Our field teams have not detected any additional compromised California Condors in northern Arizona since April 11, and four birds in veterinary care continue to show signs of recovery. The Peregrine Fund’s captive breeding program is also in full swing, and new life is hatching. Of 18 eggs laid, nine young have hatched and a new season for the recovery effort begins.
To date, all confirmed cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in California Condors were found in northern Arizona. Thankfully, Avian Influenza has not been detected in any of the other populations: California, Baja California, and Mexico.
Late last month an incident command team was convened to enhance supportive care facilities for sick birds, maintain sufficient support for field operations and monitoring, coordinate with USDA regarding the potential vaccination of condors, and develop long-term strategies for the future. Together with our partners, we are caring for recovering birds, evaluating care and quarantine facilities, and continuing to refine safety procedures for field crews.
Even in this moment of relief, The Peregrine Fund field team continues intensive, daily monitoring and management of the flock in Arizona and Utah. Our California Condor recovery leadership team is working with partners to modify facilities and define best practices for safety procedures, working especially closely with Dr. Sam Gibbs, National Avian Health and Disease Program Coordinator for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Here's how you can help.
Right now, our most urgent need is financial support for:
- Propagation of condors in Idaho where we breed young condors for release into the wild.
- Monitoring and management of threats to wild condors in Arizona and Utah so they can thrive in their desert habitat.
- Analysis by our international science team to determine how many young condors must be released to recover from this deadly influenza outbreak.
- Development of new tools to monitor condors for early detection of infection so that treatment can be most effective.
Along with your financial support, you can send words of encouragement to our field crew on the ground in Utah and Arizona.
Match your gift: Three donors came forward with a $95,000 matching challenge. We want to thank Jeremy and Amy Hanks Foundation, Jennifer Speers, and Tim and Kate Coiner for their amazing generosity. We hope their challenge inspires more people to play a role in this recovery effort.
April 19–A glimmer of hope arrived in Marble Canyon, Arizona over the past several days as emergency rescue teams took a breath and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument temperatures rose to 90 degrees. The unusually wet and cold winter conditions this year may have played a role in the occurrence and spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). While our crews are ready to recover and address the needs of more sick birds at any time, new signs of infection in our flock have decreased and some of the birds in supportive care are showing signs of improvement.
As of April 17, 2023, 20 condors have died in the Arizona-Utah flock, and HPAI has been confirmed for 10 of those condors. Eight additional birds have been brought in for supportive care. Four of those condors died shortly after and are included in the total of 20 diseased birds. Four condors are still receiving supportive care and are seeing improvement.
The fight is far from over. Losses include 14 breeding-aged birds, 11 of which had recently been observed to be nesting or tending to young. In a matter of weeks, this event has set our recovery effort back a decade or more. Our science team is already analyzing emergency data to help define this long road to recovery. Before the outbreak of HPAI, the leading cause of death (accounting for 50% of confirmed mortalities) was lead poisoning. This new threat of HPAI, for which we do not yet have a solution (like a vaccine), highlights the need to address preventable and manageable threats, and rely even more heavily on proven strategies such as captive breeding to increase the wild population.
April 13–Recovery efforts continue on the ground as we await laboratory results to confirm additional suspected cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in our Arizona-Utah flock. Additional birds have been rescued by our field crews in an effort to provide supportive care at Liberty Wildlife and give them a fighting chance at making it through this devastating virus. This population, managed by The Peregrine Fund, is the first known condor population to be impacted by HPAI. Thankfully, the populations in California are not currently experiencing this pandemic.
Prior to this outbreak, the population in Arizona and Utah was 116 individual birds.
Crews continue to work around the clock, and support staff have arrived to provide some relief for the core team. In addition to rappels off 1,000-foot cliffs, our teams recently rescued two sick condors in Grand Canyon National Park by boat, with support from the National Park Service, and Peregrine Fund biologists are hiking through the formidable canyonlands to recover additional birds.