Condor in a Cage

A California condor at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

The California condor species had endured the elements and rigors of life in nature’s arena of competition and thrived for some 11,000 years. By 1982, due to a variety of human caused circumstances, the condor population had been decimated and only 22 birds were known to be alive. Three years later a mere single breeding pair was all that was known to exist in the wild for the entire species. Extinction loomed.

As of 2010, after an aggressive captive breeding program and reintroduction to their native range, there exists 370 California condors 181 of which are flying free in the wild. Yet, though free, those condors in the wild are still very much hemmed in by humanity and continue to face many of the same existential threats that nearly ended their species forever.

Timeline of Tragedy

1890Wild California condor population estimated at 600.
1940Wild population estimate drops to 100. Species disappears in Mexico.
1960No more than 60 California condors estimated to exist in the world.
1967California condor listed as an endangered species under the precursor to today’s Endangered Species Act.
1975To address the species’ decline, the California Condor Recovery Program is established, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Audubon Society, and also including the U.S. Forest Service, the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos, and the California Department of Fish and Game.
1982Only 22 California condors known to exist. Conservationists begin to take condor chicks from the wild for captive rearing.
1983Conservationists begin to remove eggs from the wild and hatch them in captivity. Chicks born in captivity are raised in boxes that simulate a cave environment and are fed by conservationists using condor hand puppets.
1985Six wild condors disappear, leaving a single breeding pair in existence in the wild for the entire species. At this desperate point, the Fish and Wildlife Service makes the controversial decision to capture all remaining wild condors in an effort to keep them safe and begin a captive breeding program—a last ditch effort to save the species from extinction.
1987The last wild condor is removed from the wild. At this point, the entire species population numbers 27 individuals.


Timeline quoted from United States Fish and Wildlife Service

California Department of Fish and Game

Related Posts:

Desperate Fight with Condors: Narrow Escape of Santa Barbara Man (1899)

Dick Smith Calling a Condor, Piru 1970

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1 Response to Condor in a Cage

  1. Thank you for posting about the Condor. Last week I had the opportunity to camp and hike at Pinnacles National Monument where I got lucky and spotted one of these amazing beast. They truly are amazing creatures.
    I was able to snap a couple pictures of one. If you were interested, here’s the link to my flickr.

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