Over the years, a significant number of plant and animal species have been lost to extinction, resulting in the loss of genetic diversity, biological diversity, as well as the sources of livelihoods for future generations (Maczulak, 2010). An endangered species in the US today is the California condor, which is without a doubt the largest land bird in the North American continent (Bourke & Ready-Ed Publications, 2005). Following its extinction in the wild in 1987, the California condor was later reintroduced in various parts of America such as Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, the coastal mountains of southern and central California, as well as northern Baja California, and it was listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) . Despite the preservation efforts in place, its extinction the coming future cannot be ruled out. Originally, the California condor was widespread in the western US from British Columbia south to Baja in California, the northeastern US especially in New York, and other regions including Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Florida, Texas, and Nuevo León in Mexico. The species was later restricted to Los Padres National Forest, which is located in southern California. In the 1950s, the total population of the California condor was slightly over 150, although this figured decreased significantly in the succeeding years. In 1968, the total population of the species was between 50 and 60, and this dropped to between 25 and 35 in 1978. In 1985, the total population of the species was nine following the death of 6 birds that resulted from extremely harsh climatic conditions. In 1987, the last bird of the species was removed from the wild, and later, in 1992, there was a reintroduction of the species to Los Padres National Forest in Southern California.
Today, there are several factors contributing to the extinction of the California condor in one way or the other. When at a young age, the California condor is preyed upon by Golden Eagles and black bears, and this is a great threat to its population. This species lays eggs as a form of reproduction although the eggs are threatened by the existence of common ravens. Human activities also contribute to the species’ gradual extinction, and this is evidenced where the species’ body parts such as feathers and bones are used in ceremonial activities. For instance, several Indian tribes use condor feathers to make capes worn during ceremonies. These tribes also use long bones of condor wing to make whistles as well as fat from the species’ body cavity to make medicine. Lead poisoning, especially after ingestion of pellets from animals killed by hunters, is also a contributing factor for California condor’s near extinction in modern society. Other key factors that make this species endangered include poaching and existence of power lines near their habitats (Walters et al., 2008).
With the California condor facing extinction, several efforts have been put in place over the years to preserve this species. In 1905, California Fish and Game law was enacted with the aim of prohibiting people from taking of nongame birds, their eggs or nests without a permit although the failure to enforce this law was a blow to the preservation of the species. In 1947, the US Forest Service established the Sepse Condor Sanctuary, which was approximately 35,000 acres to protect the species from human interference through poaching. In 1953, the California Fish and Game Code was enforced, becoming the first legal protection that was directed to the preservation of the California condor (Walters et al., 2010). In 1985, the federal government gave an approval for the Condor Recovery Plan as well as formal recognition of Condor Recovery Team. Due to loss of several birds in 1994, Los Angeles Zoo began power-line and human aversion programs for all condor release candidates, which resulted in a captive population of 85 and a wild population of only 3. In May 2000, the Condor Ridge was opened at the Wild Animal Park with the aim of helping in the preservation of the California condor species (Walters et al., 2010).
A milestone in the preservation of the California condor species was the enactment of the endangered species act (ESA), which was signed into law on December 28, 1973. ESA’s primary purpose was to provide for the conservation of endangered species as well as the preservation of the ecosystems on which the species depend (Czech, Krausman, & Center for American Places, 2001). However, this act has been criticized for various reasons by stakeholders in the US Fish and Wildlife Service. First, although the act’s main purpose is to see the prohibition of interstate and foreign transactions for list species, it provides no provisions regarding in-state commerce, and this allows the sale of endangered species to roadside zoos as well as private collectors. Second, the act allows the shipping of listed species across state lines as long as they are not sold. Dealers often go against this provision and donate their breeds to people n exchange for money. An improvement to the endangered species act would be the inclusion of a provision that illegalizes the sale or shipping of listed species. Through this, poaching of endangered species would decrease significantly, and this would be a step towards preventing their extinction in future.
Bourke, J., & Ready-Ed Publications. (2005). Endangered species of the world. Greenwood, W.A: Ready-Ed Publications.
Czech, B., Krausman, P. R., & Center for American Places. (2001). The Endangered Species Act: History, conservation biology, and public policy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Maczulak, A. E. (2010). Biodiversity: Conserving endangered species. New York: Facts On File.
Walters, J. R., Derrickson, S. R., Fry, D. M., Haig, S. M., Marzluff, J. M., & Wunderle, J. M. (2008). Status of the California condor and efforts to achieve its recovery. Joint initiative of the American ornithologists’ union and Audubon California.
Walters, J. R., Derrickson, S. R., Michael Fry, D., Haig, S. M., Marzluff, J. M., & Wunderle Jr, J. M. (2010). Status of the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) and efforts to achieve its recovery. The Auk, 127(4), 969-1001.