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California Condors to be Released in Northern Arizona

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Hunting, poaching and habitat destruction reduced the world population of California condors to fewer than two dozen by the 1980s. (a2gk3/Flickr)
Hunting, poaching and habitat destruction reduced the world population of California condors to fewer than two dozen by the 1980s. (a2gk3/Flickr)
September 13, 2018

PAGE, Ariz. – Arizonans this month have a chance to join in celebrating an endangered species success story.

There were only around 22 California condors left in the world in the 1980s. They're still critically endangered and face a number of environmental and man-made threats.

But, thanks to conservation efforts, condor numbers have been rising steadily for decades. The population is now around 500, and about 85 live in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

The Peregrine Fund will release several captive-bred young California condors at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument next week.

Chris Parish, the endangered bird group’s director of global conservation, encourages the public to come see the birds take flight in their new Arizona home.

"It's a program in action that people have access to,” he points out. “And that's something unique for endangered species management.

“Usually, there are so few individuals of that species, and there are protected areas, and the beauty of this is, it's open and available to the public year-round."

If visitors can't make it to the birds' release, Parish says the condors can be spotted throughout the year between the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.

The condor release event coincides with National Public Lands Day this Saturday, Sept. 22.

Parish sees protecting public lands as essential to the future of endangered species like the California condor. He says the Public Lands Day condor event is a chance to showcase how federal and state lands agencies work in partnership with nonprofit groups and the public.

"Especially in Arizona – I mean, public lands are such a big part of our landscape, and the management of those public lands – we all work collectively to manage for not just endangered species, but our ability to use those public lands, to recreate in those public lands," he states.

This is the 23rd year condors are being released in Arizona. The Peregrine Fund monitors the birds to track their survival rate, and says the birds' biggest threat after release is lead poisoning from ingesting lead ammunition from hunters.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - AZ