Condors Back in Flight

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Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

charlene_W1_picAdjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the Arnold and Mabel  Beckman Center for Conservation Research, which contains six laboratories, forty- eight offices, and the Zoo’s library. Of the six laboratories, one of them, the Conservation Education Lab, is dedicated to giving students and teachers a hands-on experience in conservation science. Maggie Reinbold, founding member of the Conservation Education Division, taught us the importance of conserving not only the environment, but the species that inhabit it as well, specifically the California Condors.California condors were on the brink of extinction with only about two dozen left in the world at one point. The condors were listed as an endangered species beginning in 1967, but despite their status their numbers continued to fall. With less than 25 condors remaining on the planet, conservation reasearchers working at the San Diego Zoo made the bold move to capture all of the condors form the wild and start an intensive captive breeding program in the hopes of recovering their population. With all of the hard work put into restoring the California Condors their population has steadily increased to over four hundred as of now. But what were the factors that had caused the condors depleted numbers?

Mrs. Reinbold explained to us, that like many other species on the planet, habitat destruction and poaching are some of the factors that had contributed to their depletion. Aside from those factors however lead poisoning seemed to be the number one cause for the condors’ decline. It was discovered that  lead bullets hunters use to kill various animals, would later be ingested by the condors because they are scavengers. Laws have been implemented in California illegalizing the use of lead bullets in areas where condors are present to prevent this from happening. Another factor that contributed to the decline of condors was power line collisions. Due to the condors’ enormous size (more than a nine-foot wingspan) they would easily crash into power lines and would plummet to their deaths or even be electrocuted. To prevent this as a future problem, Mrs. Reinbold described the use of aversion therapy in which scale power lines were set up in the condors’ pre-release pens. Each time a condor would land on the mini power line, a small jolt would ring through the condor’s body, training it so that they will no longer approach power lines. This method of aversion therapy has been very successful.

Mrs. Reinbold, founding member of the Conservation Education Division, taught us in a very short period of time about the importance of conserving species. Without these species, ecosystems could be disrupted and future generations will not have the privilage of marveling at the beauty of the creatures found on earth. It is crucial that we as individuals think twice about our actions and how it can affect the environment in which humans and animals live in. Conservation researchers have successfully prevented one species from extinction, and hopefully by spreading the word, efforts of conserving species will not be wasted.

Most of the time people overlook the species that live within their own area. People usually look to foreign countries and sympathize with the most well- known endangered species such as pandas, tigers, and whales. While expressing their concern with these animals are helpful, we must also realize that the species that live in your local area are just as important. Although the California condors have experienced some growth in their population they still need help. By spreading knowledge about this animal specie and by simply throwing away trash in the designated areas, people can directly help all organism, especially those who live close by.

Charlene, Real World Team
Week One, Winter 2013