.. birds in the wild. There was increasing pressure from the California Fish and Game Commission, The Audubon Society, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to implement an aggressive program to save the remaining condors. Two years later, a positive observation was made by biologists of California Condors laying replacement eggs after losses of first laid eggs at remote nesting sites. This provided additional credence to the idea of using the double clutching technique with McNulty 7 captive pairs to regenerate the species.
The Condor Research Center was granted license to attempt deliberate placement clutching or condor pairs to aid in a captive-breeding program. Several years passed with continuing efforts to begin captive breeding resulting in the first captive hatch in March of nineteen eighty-three. By this time, the wild population was estimated to be nineteen birds. By nineteen eighty-five, this continued decline of the wild breeding population coupled with the initial captive breeding success resulted in approval of a plan to capture the remaining wild birds for captive breeding. The remaining nine wild birds were captured, and the breeding program expanded.
Eventually, artificial incubation began as part of the regeneration effort. The artificially incubated eggs hatched at nearly twice the rate of eggs studied in the wild. This high success rate lent further credence to the once controversial intervention in the name of species regeneration. The proper care of the captive birds was the purpose behind the design of the captive breeding facility. The first facility was called the Condorminium, and was designed as an enclosure that would allow the most natural setting possible.
This was concurrent with the final goal of reintroduction. The facilities used for this captive-breeding program were designed to allow limited flapping and mobility for the birds, thus mitigating the stress of captivity. Constructed in an area of access to wind and some weather, these enclosures helped to preserve some sense of instinct. To further maintain a healthy environment, the enclosures were strictly off limits to the public. Enclosures used McNulty 8 in this program were installed in several regions of the American West, with pairs being raised in San Diego, Boise, and eventually Los Angeles. The success of this program was to be measured by the release of breeding pairs of condors that were bread in captivity.
There were several problems to be addressed in this process. One question was how to ensure that the condors to be released would have the benefit of human aversion. Minimizing human contact during the rearing stage was one measure stipulated in the program outline. Negative reinforcement training was widely used to condition captive birds with the skills needed to succeed in the wild. Aversion training was also used in an attempt to preclude accidental injuries after release. The natural curiosity of condors can lead wild condors near population centers, often to perch on power lines.
Aversion training aimed at preventing such roosting can include presenting captive birds with a combination of trees and mock telephone poles to perch on. If the birds choose to perch on the mock poles rather than on the available trees, they are provided negative reinforcement by way of a mild shock. These techniques are in place to afford captive birds every opportunity for success upon release. The release program continued to grow, with multiple pairs gaining release between nineteen ninety-three and nineteen ninety-seven. The first release site was in the Los Padres National Forest in southern California. There were two separate release points constructed there in response to an increase in human activity and power lines. There was a second release point used in Lion Canyon, which is also in the Los Padres National Forest. Subsequently, a site thirty miles north of the Grand Canyon called Vermillion McNulty 9 Cliffs was chosen as a release site because of its unique landscape and remote location.
The success of the released condors has proven encouraging. There are four areas now populated by released breeding pairs, and future releases are planned at regular intervals. Maintenance of released birds includes baiting designated feeding areas with carcasses to encourage the birds to learn to scavenge. This requires regular placement of food with careful avoidance of any human contact in order to help preserve the birds natural searching instinct. Many questions remain about the future of these birds, but the regeneration of the wild population continues to benefit from the captive breeding programs. LIMITATIONS OF CONDOR CAPTIVE BREEDING Captive breeding programs represent a concerted effort on behalf of humans to sustain the species that have been gravely affected by the changes in environment bought about by the actions of mankind.
Many people accept programs such as these as progress toward mending the damage inflicted by humans on the environment. There are, however, several fundamental questions that are going unanswered. First, does answering the slow regeneration problem through captive double clutching fix the problem of extinction or simply delay a symptom? It is important to recognize that the numbers of wild condors were diminished to the point of near extinction as a result of human destruction of habitat. Through pollution and McNulty 10 encroachment, humans have permanently changed the environment. Slowing this rate of change is central to any solution if we are to attempt to reach equilibrium with nature.
Second, can the collective actions of the human race be changed sufficiently for the continued survival of fringe species? Evidence has shown that conflict between fragile species and the agricultural settlement of common habitat inevitably leads to the decimation of the species in question, in this case the California Condor. The solution to this element of the problem is perhaps the most elusive. This cannot be answered by resettlement or repopulation. The actions of the human race must become responsible on the individual level. Education about endangered species and federal protection of endangered species can help, but the questionable future of fragile species can be made more certain only by responsible actions on the part of individuals. Additionally, can humans share common land with wild scavengers with out justification for needless hunting? Many people do not see why humans should try to share resources with a competing species.
This leads to perhaps the most central question concerning conservation in general. Why conserve? Many average people fail to see the fault in the actions of humans as the dominant species on the planet when annihilate subordinate species. If there exists a conflict between human interests and the needs of a competing species, then why accommodate a lesser-developed animal? The answer can only be found in the idea that humans have a responsibility to preserve the natural order. Perhaps best answered by McNulty 11 a Park Ranger with whom I had the opportunity to speak about this very issue, saving weak species may seem like a waste of time to some people, but as soon as we give up on a single species, we have started down the wrong path. Humans, as a race, benefit from natural preservation in the projected future. Long term preservation of natural resources, plant, mineral, and animal alike, is an idea that holds little merit with a majority of humans who are often faced with more immediate concerns for their own well being and welfare.
Balancing immediate needs and long term interests is one challenge facing the human race as resources become more scarce and human needs grow with our population. If we are to collectively survive as members of an intricate ecosystem, we must learn to manage our natural dominance toward the good of the planet. McNulty 12 Works Cited New World Vultures. Macmillan Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia. 1984 ed. p216 Condors and Vultures. Audubons Birds of America. CrossRiver Press, 1981.
p89 Grossman, Mary Louise. Birds of Prey of the World. Clarkson N. Potter, 1964. p37-39, 203-204.
Birds of Prey- The Raptors. The Encyclopedia of Birds. 1985 ed. p103-104 California Condor Conservation Efforts. Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species. 1 April 2000. pp1-5.
San Diego Zoo. 8 April 2000. *http://www.sandiegozoo.org/cres/milestone.html*. Condor Reproductive Biology. Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species. 1 April 2000. pp 1-4. San Diego Zoo.
7 April 2000. *http://www.sandiegozoo.org/cres/reproductive.html * Environmental Issues.