To Save a Symbol: The California Condor Controversy Endures


To Save a Symbol: The California Condor Controversy Endures

by Neal Matthews

California Condors, Captive Breeding and the Controversy of Rescuing Endangered Species

Over the objections of the Audubon Society and numerous field biologists, the last wild condor was trapped in 1987 to become part of a zoo-based captive breeding program, with no guarantee that condors would ever be released to fly free again.

We have begun to impose a new physical order on the condor. Except the condor’s affiliations extend back to the Pleistocene era. And what will we end up with? Two zoos are attempting to mass-produce condor chicks deliberately dispossessed of a cultural memory that that until April 19, 1987, included the internal anatomy of woolly mammoth carcasses.

The parentless-birds are fed by keepers, using the condor puppets that fake the birds into believing humans aren’t involved. In their special hatching range in the Los Padres National Forest, carrion is laid out for the birds to eat. Bill Toone, who is a bird curator at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and in charge of that zoo’s condor breeding program, says the carrion may have to be placed on the range “forever.”

So, radio-equipped birds, hatched in captivity, will be fed by their maker for the duration. This is saving the species?


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