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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living On Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... Ten years of saving the California Condor.


CURWOOD: Ten years ago this month, one of our most endangered species began a most remarkable comeback. The California condor is the biggest bird in North America. It can weigh up to 25 pounds, and boasts a wingspan of nearly 10 feet. It is so sturdy it can fly at altitudes of 18,000 feet, and cruise for hours at a time without flapping its wings. The condor used to enjoy free range across North America, but that was back in the Pleistocene Age. In more recent times, hunters, poison, and power lines have been the bird's greatest enemies. By 1987, the condor's numbers had dwindled to just 14, all living in California's San Joaquin Valley. The US Fish and Wildlife Service wanted to bring all surviving condors in from the wild, and breed them in captivity. Many environmental groups, including the Audubon Society, opposed the move, arguing that it would be impossible to reintroduce the birds. But the plan went ahead, and soon biologists had the birds reproducing at 6 times their natural rate. Today, there are 132 California condors. Thirty-three live in the wild. Fifteen more birds are scheduled for release by next winter. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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