Condor Comeback 2010
Carmel de Bertaut
Public Invited to attend Condor Comeback 2010 at Pinnacles National Monument
Paicines, CA - On Saturday, September 25, up to 2 California condors will be released into the wild at Pinnacles National Monument, 80 miles south of San Jose. The public is invited to attend Condor Comeback 2010, a condor release celebration from 9:30 AM – 1:00 PM, at the park Visitor Center near the campground on the east side of the park, accessed from Highway 25.
A live, remote video feed from the condor facility to the Visitor Center will display the young condors in the pen and the first flight of any released birds. In addition, the event will have speakers, informational and educational booths staffed by rangers and park partners, and an activity booth for children to draw and display their "condor wishes." Car pooling is encouraged since parking is limited, and is on a first come, first served basis.
Though the event is not being held in the previously used 'viewing area', spotting scopes, binoculars, water, layered clothing, and comfortable hiking shoes are recommended for viewing wild condors in the park. Because of the significance of this event and the desire to make it accessible to everyone, Superintendent Eric Brunnemann has scheduled the event to coincide with National Public Lands Day, a day when entrance fees are waived at all National Park sites.
"We are encouraged by the success of this program and the support of the local communities and park neighbors," said Brunnemann. "The return of the California condor to the central coast of California provides excellent opportunities for condor viewing in the park, and we are proud to be a part of the recovery of this magnificent species."
Four juvenile condors -- 3 females and 1 male -- will be set free in Pinnacles National Monument this fall, joining the park's twenty-six wild resident condors. On September 25, up to 2 birds may be "soft released" through a trap on the side of the flight pen, and once these birds give indications that they are acclimating to their new surroundings, the park plans to release the remaining juveniles over the following weeks. There is a chance that no birds will enter the trap on the day of the event. However, there is a good chance to see previously released free flying Condors. The 1-2 year old juvenile condors are a result of successful captive breeding programs at the Oregon Zoo and Peregrine Fund World Center of Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho.
All of Pinnacles' releases have been "soft releases" by opening a portion of the flight pen from out of sight of the birds. This technique is less stressful on the birds since it the condors are able to escape the pen without seeing people and indeed they often see other condors immediately outside of the pen and thereby have another bird to learn from.
This is the seventh release of the endangered birds at Pinnacles. Ultimately, project biologists anticipate building a sustainable population of up to 30 condors at Pinnacles, a historic condor nesting area, over the next several years. The reintroduction of California condors to Pinnacles is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Ventana Wildlife Society, and Pinnacles Partnership in collaboration with the California Condor Recovery Team.
Pinnacles Partnership, a friends group formed by several local citizens in 2006, supports projects at Pinnacles that are critical to protecting and restoring park lands. These projects range from supporting condor recovery efforts at Pinnacles, celebrating the park's centennial anniversary, and supporting schools' abilities to use Pinnacles as an outdoor classroom. This non-profit organization exists thanks to caring contributors in the community.
Ventana Wildlife Society, which has been conducting condor releases in Big Sur, California since 1997, teamed up with the National Park Service in 2002 to reintroduce condors to Pinnacles National Monument. The San Diego Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo, the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho and the Oregon Zoo breed condors destined for release in California, Arizona, and Baja, Mexico. The Pinnacles condor release is an important link in the overall condor recovery effort.
From a population low of 22 birds in the mid-1980s, condors have rebounded through intensive captive breeding efforts and rigorous educational programs explaining human-caused threats to condor survival. Especially important is work that the Institute for Wildlife Studies is doing to discuss the connection of lead ammunition fragments to condor mortality and the availability of non-lead alternatives. As of July 31, 2010, the total world population of California condors was 196 in captivity and 188 in the wild.
Further details of the release event are available on the Pinnacles National Monument website at www.nps.gov/pinn/planyourvisit/2010-condor-celebration.htm or by calling Pinnacles National Monument at 831-389-4486 ext.243.