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california condor recovery program

4

Saticoy Flies into the Wild!

Saticoy (purple #36) receives his transmitters before his release.

Saticoy (purple #36) receives his transmitters before his release. Photo credit: Devon Lang Pryor, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

We have some exciting news: Saticoy, everybody’s favorite California condor who hatched and grew up on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Condor Cam in 2012, has finally been released to fly free in the wild! Saticoy was the first California condor to hatch, on March 10, 2012, while thousands of excited viewers watched live on Condor Cam. His parents (father Sisquoc and mother Shatash) did an amazing job raising him for over five months until he left the nest.

On April 11, 2013, we transported him to the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in southern California with two other young condors to be socialized in a pen before being released. The young birds were kept in this flight pen throughout the summer and into the autumn so that they could become familiar with their surroundings before they were released. They were able to acclimatize to the weather and wind. Also, the 60+ other condors already flying free in this region were allowed to meet the new, young release candidates through the flight pen’s wire. When the young birds were released, they weren’t complete strangers to the free-flying residents.

The two condors who accompanied Saticoy from the Safari Park (Nechuwa, #637, and Sukilamu, #643) were the first two birds released from the flight pen. They were released on October 22, 2013. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service field biologists observed these two for a while to make sure they were socializing well into the wild flock before releasing any of the other young birds. After these two youngsters were okay, it was Saticoy’s turn.

Saticoy feeds at a carcass with other condors; one is Sukilamu (purple #43), another Safari Park condor.

Saticoy feeds at a carcass with other wild condors. Photo credit: Devon Lang Pryor, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Saticoy (#636) and a young female (#628) from the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho (another of our valuable partners in the California Condor Recovery Program) were released together on November 20, 2013, and flew away from the flight pen. Then some bad weather hit the area for the next two days. By November 23, 2013, the fog had cleared, and the sun was shining. That afternoon, both #628 and Saticoy had found their way back to the flight pen and began feeding with the free-flying condors. One of the field biologists said that the two young condors may have set a record in returning to the release site and fitting in with the wild birds so quickly!

Saticoy was also observed perching and roosting in big snag trees with other birds those first few days. Usually, the field biologists find newly released birds on the ground or perched in small trees or shrubs before they make it up to the roost snags.

As you can see, it takes a lot of time, effort, and people to prepare young condors for a release program. Without help and enthusiasm from people like you, none of this would be possible. All of us at the Safari Park (including all of the condors!) thank you so much. It appears that Saticoy is off to a great start at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge and is learning his way around. We couldn’t be happier for him!

Many thanks to Devon Lang Pryor, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Biological Science technician, for providing us with an update and photos of the release!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, The Condors Next Door.

11

Moving Day for Condor Cuyamaca

What's going on? Ron's post explains all.

What’s going on? Ron’s post explains all.

Cuyamaca, the California condor chick who hatched and was raised by her parents Sisquoc and Shatash on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Condor Cam, has officially flown the coop…in a manner of speaking. On Tuesday, September 3, 2013, we removed her from her parents’ flight pen at our California condor breeding facility and moved her to our remote socialization pen, approximately one mile from the main part of the Safari Park. There, she will be isolated from any human activity and socialized with other fledglings her age: females Wesa (pronounced WAY-sah) and Kimi (KEE-mee), and male Kuyam (KOO-yam). Eventually, she will be joined by two birds yet to fledge: males Pshan (Puh-SHAWN) and Ostus (OH-stuss). She will also be living with 2-year-old juvenile female condor Ihiy (EE-hee), and 9-year-old adult female Xananan (ha-NA-nan).

California condors who are expected to be released to the wild are called release candidates. We raise all of our condor chicks as if they are release candidates until we hear otherwise from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which oversees the California Condor Recovery Program. We have yet to hear if and/or where any of this year’s fledglings will be released; it may not be determined until December. Release candidates are isolated from humans. We offer their food through a chute in the wall, and we don’t pick up any of their old food. The pools are drained and rinsed from the outside of the pen. The only time the birds see us is during a medical procedure: affixing wingtags, doing pre-shipment examinations, or giving West Nile virus inoculations. These generally are not enjoyable experiences for the young condors, and that is what we want them to learn from us before they are shipped to the wild. We don’t want them to associate humans with anything beneficial. We are hoping to foster behaviors that wild condors would have: avoiding human activity and hazardous, artificial situations. Survival rates for condors that become accustomed to humans and human activity are very low.

One of Cuyamaca’s new penmates has a very important role. Xananan, the adult, is acting as the young birds’ new mentor. Her job is to facilitate the socialization of the fledglings. Condors are very social and, like us, need to learn the rules of how to interact in a group. The parent condors started this process when their chicks hatched and continued it as the youngsters eventually fledged. Now that they are no longer living with their parents, Xananan will further their “education.” She will be the dominant bird in the pen, often displacing the fledglings from perches or roost sites or pushing them from the food until she has eaten first. The dominant birds at a site are usually the biggest ones and often the most experienced. The young condors need to learn how to interact with these dominant and pushy birds to be successful in the wild.

The socialization pen is very large with lots of space to fly around and exercise wings. There are several large oak snags on which to perch or roost. Also, there are two pools from which to drink or bathe. There are several ground-level perches and boulders to hop around on as well. It is interesting to see the social development of each bird. They can choose to perch next to whichever bird they wish, so they really get to know each other well. We have learned that young condors that aren’t well-socialized tend not to be successful once they are released to the wild.

Before Cuyamaca was moved, we were able to affix yellow wingtag #79 to her right wing. We normally put the last two digits of the condor’s studbook number on the tag. This wingtag helps to identify Cuyamaca so we can differentiate her from the other fledglings, as they all have their own wingtag numbers. The wingtags serve the same purpose as legbands do for any of the other birds you might see at the San Diego Zoo or the Safari Park. We just can’t use legbands on the condors, as the bands would get encrusted with urates during urohydrosis, and it would become impossible to read the numbers on the band. Urohydrosis is the process in which condors, and all other New World vultures, keep cool. They excrete uric acid, or urates, on their bare legs. When this liquid evaporates, it cools the skin and the underlying blood vessels, similar to how sweating keeps us cool. Another reason condors get wingtags is that they are so strong, they can just bend the legbands right off of their legs!

Cuyamaca weighed 18 pounds (8.17 kilograms) before she was moved to her new pen, very close to her adult weight. She weighed only about 180 grams when she hatched on March 26!

Thanks again for all of the interest, support, and great comments and questions over the past five months. It has been awesome to see how well the Condor Cam was received by all of Sisquoc, Shatash, and Cuyamaca’s new family of fans. It has been an honor to be able to acquaint you with these amazing, beautiful, and majestic birds! Although you cannot watch her anymore, we’ll keep you updated on Cuyamaca’s progress in this next socialization stage of her development.

Luckily, the condor pair housed next door to Sisquoc and Shatash is still raising their chick, so we are able to use the Condor Cam to show you this new family! The male is named Towich (pronounced “TOH-witch”) and the female is Sulu (SOO-loo). The chick’s name is Pshan (as mentioned above), and he is 130 days old. He jumped up onto his nest-box barrier for the first time on September 2 and should be hopping into the adjoining roost soon. I’ll tell you more about this family in the next Condor Cam blog. Stay tuned!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, Condor Chick has Fledged!

9

Meet Igor, the Last CA Condor Taken out of the Wild

A California condor in the recovery program

A California condor in the recovery program

One of our Condor Cam viewers asked for information about Igor, one of the original condors in the California Condor Recovery Program. As I recall, Igor was the “house name” for a condor known officially as AC-9. Back in the mid- to late 80s, the field crews who were tracking and photographing the last remaining wild condors gave him that name. Igor became famous as the last California condor to be taken out of the wild, on April 19, 1987.

Igor was brought to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and stayed here until late 1988, when he was sent to the Los Angeles Zoo. A few years later, he was released to the wild and is still there today, living in and around the Hopper National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County.

As a fun sidelight item, his parents were the same as Sisquoc’s, the male condor you can watch daily on our popular Condor Cam. Sisquoc was the first California condor to hatch in captivity from an egg taken from a wild nest in 1983.

Another tidbit: after there were no breeding pairs left in the wild in 1986, and no hope of reproduction, Igor was paired with an older female condor (AC-8) at the Los Angeles Zoo who had lost her mate. They ended up producing a fertile egg that was brought to the Safari Park. That chick hatched and was named Nojoqui, who is still here today and has an egg due to hatch around March 4!

Don Sterner is an animal care manager at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

7

New Egg for Condors Sisquoc and Shatash

A condor flies to its nest box in the Safari Park's "Condorminium" complex.

A condor flies to its nest box in the Safari Park’s “Condorminium” complex.

Welcome back to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Condor Cam! The Condor Cam provides a rare look inside an active California condor nest. Over the next seven months, you will be able to witness incubation behavior, the hatch of a chick, its growth, and its eventual fledge (leaving of the nest). Another exciting California condor breeding season is upon us. Our third egg of the season was laid on January 27, 2013. The proud parents are last year’s Condor Cam stars Sisquoc (pronounced “SISS-kwawk”) and Shatash (pronounced “shah-TAHSH”). Sisquoc is the male, and he is wearing yellow wing tags (#28). Shatash, the female, is not wearing any wingtags. Also, Sisquoc is visibly larger than Shatash. He is the largest condor here at the Park, weighing in at 25 pounds (11 kilograms).

Sisquoc was the first California condor ever hatched in a zoo (his egg was laid in the wild and brought to the San Diego Zoo for incubation). He emerged from his shell on March 30, 1983, and news of his hatching triggered an outpouring of mail from all over the world. Congratulatory letters were sent by conservationists, zoos, governments, school classrooms, and many individuals, all wanting to help with the condor project. And look at him now—time flies, doesn’t it?

Shatash hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo, one of our partners in the California Condor Recovery Program. Her father was the first condor to hatch at the Safari Park (again, from a wild-laid egg), back in 1985. Sisquoc and Shatash have been paired together since 1993. This is their 22nd egg. Sixteen chicks have hatched, and Sisquoc and Shatash have raised five of them themselves, including last year’s Condor Cam chick, named Saticoy. The other chicks were raised by keepers who used a condor puppet so the chicks wouldn’t imprint on their human caretakers. Sisquoc and Shatash have proven to be great and reliable parents.

California condors tend to be monogamous and share ALL nest duties: incubating the egg, brooding the chick, feeding the chick, and defending the nest. Throughout incubation you will see Sisquoc and Shatash take turns sitting on the egg to keep it warm. You may see them roll or turn the egg periodically. This gentle egg movement is crucial for the development of the growing embryo. Incubation bouts can be very short—just a few minutes—or birds can sit for two or three days, so don’t be alarmed! Sometimes the parents will sit together in the nest. Condor eggs incubate at about 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius). Condors have a long incubation period; we are expecting the egg to “pip,” or start hatching, after 55 days of incubation, around March 23, 2013.

Sisquoc and Shatash’s new egg is very valuable to the condor population. California condors are critically endangered. In 1982, they were on the road to extinction, with only 22 birds in the world. Today, through breeding programs at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the Los Angeles Zoo, the Oregon Zoo, and the World Center for Birds of Prey (in Boise, Idaho), as well as intensive field management in the wild, the population is up to 404 birds. It’s a nice population increase, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. This egg, and eventual chick, represents the next step in the California condor story – and you get to witness it on Condor Cam!

Stay tuned for future blogs with egg updates. If you have any questions about what you’re seeing, feel free to ask them in the “Comments” section at the end of this post, and we’ll do our best to provide answers. Happy viewing!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, Saticoy’s Siblings.

8

Condor Saticoy’s Siblings

Saticoy, #36, and his socialization group

Although Saticoy was the first California condor chick to be raised in public view, via our Condor Cam, he’s not the first condor to be raised at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. We have hatched 177 chicks here since 1985. His parents, father Sisquoc and mother Shatash, have been productive contributors to the California Condor Recovery Program. To date, they have produced 16 chicks and have parent-reared 5, including Saticoy. One was foster-reared by our Andean condor pair when Sisquoc and Shatash were not able to raise their own that year. The other 10 chicks were raised by keepers using a condor puppet to prevent imprinting. Of their 16 chicks, 12 have been released to the wild—southern and central California, northern Arizona, and Baja California, Mexico—and are identified by their studbook numbers instead of names.

The southern California release area is composed of different release sites in the Los Padres National Forest near the Sespe Condor Sanctuary. Sisquoc and Shatash have had two chicks released here, one at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge and one at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Both of these birds (female #255, 11 years old, and male #590, 1 year old) are still alive and flying free. #255 has nested successfully in the wild, providing Sisquoc and Shatash with their first “grand-chick!”

Two more of their chicks were released in the Ventana Wilderness in Big Sur, central California. Sadly, they both died in the wild. One-year-old male #363 was found starved and emaciated from unknown causes in 2006. His brother, #301, died in 2007 at age 4 when he collided with power lines. Power lines have traditionally been a hazard for California condors and other large-winged birds. Condors have been killed when they hit the power lines, often breaking wings or necks. Sometimes, because of their large wingspans, they get electrocuted when they land on the poles or transformers, which look like good perches. Thankfully, power line interactions are not as frequent as they once were, as we now condition young birds to avoid power poles. This conditioning often stays with them, causing them to find better and safer places to perch than on a power pole. Also, utility companies have helped by putting metal flappers on long spans of wire to make the power lines easier to see, and thus easier to avoid, for flying condors. In some cases, power companies have also gone to the expense of burying problematic electric lines.

Sisquoc and Shatash have had three of their chicks released in northern Arizona at the Vermilion Cliffs, just north of Grand Canyon National Park. Condors released in this area are often seen in the Grand Canyon and in Zion National Park in Utah. Male #287, 10 years old, and male #520, 3 years old, are still flying free, but their sister, #548, was killed by a mountain lion while she was roosting for the night when she was almost 2 years old. Other predators of condors include coyotes, bobcats, and bears. Predation of condors doesn’t happen very often, but it is a natural hazard of living a wild life.

Five more chicks of Sisquoc and Shatash’s have been released in northern Baja California, Mexico, in Sierra de San Pedro Martir National Park. Three of them are alive and well: female #395 (6 years old), female #469 (4 years old), and male #495 (4 years old). Their brother, #315, was found dead on a nearby beach from unknown causes when he was 3 years old. A sister, #407, died from lead poisoning when she was 2 years old.

Lead poisoning is the single biggest hazard preventing California condors from thriving in the wild. They get lead poisoning from eating lead-tainted meat. Condors are scavengers, only eating meat they find already dead; they don’t hunt. They eat almost any kind of animal, no matter how it died: hit by a car, disease, predated by another animal, or shot by people. Although lead-free ammunition is available, the majority of ammunition contains lead, a very toxic and soft metal. When lead ammunition hits its target, it fragments into small pieces throughout the animal carcass. If this carcass is left out in the wild, it is eaten by scavengers, including condors, turkey vultures, coyotes, bears, wolves, and eagles. This almost always results in the scavenger becoming poisoned by the lead fragments. Lead poisoning, if untreated, results in paralysis and death.

Sometimes, if field biologists are able to catch the sick condors before too much damage is done, the lead can be removed from the condors’ bodies through a process called chelation (see post Condor Rescue in the Grand Canyon). Although we have the ability to save a condor from dying from lead poisoning, we still don’t know the long-term effects to multiple lead exposures on the nervous and reproductive systems. An alarming majority of the 200+ condors that are flying free have been exposed to lead at least once, so it is a top priority of the California Condor Recovery Program to reduce the amount of lead available in the environment. It is very important for us to switch to lead-free ammunition whenever possible.

Four of Sisquoc and Shatash’s chicks were not released to the wild. Two died when they were very young, before they were old enough for release. One is on exhibit at the San Diego Zoo in Elephant Odyssey: male #500, 3 years old. When he is old enough, he will be paired with a female to become part of the breeding program, and someday his chicks will be released to the wild.

And the last one is Saticoy, #636. See Condor Saticoy Update.

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

8

Condor Saticoy Update

It’s easy to identify Saticoy: his wing tag is #36.

Saticoy is still here at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, in an off-exhibit area being socialized with a large group of condors. We still have not heard whether or not he will be released to the wild, so we are still considering him a release candidate. Geneticists for the California Condor Recovery Program determine the suitability for release for every condor chick that hatches. They take into consideration the chick’s sex, representation at each release site, and genetic value.

Saticoy’s socialization group consists of three other males who hatched this year: Siyi (pronounced “SEE-yee”), Nechuwa (pronounced “neh-CHOO-wah”), and Sukilamu (pronounced “soo-kee-LA-moo”). He is also living with a 1-year-old female named Ihiy (pronounced “EE-hee”), a 2-year-old female named Asha (pronounced AH-sha), a 5-year-old female named Sinya (SIN-yah), and an 8-year-old adult female named Xananan (pronounced “ha-NA-nan”). Xananan is the boss of the group. Her main job is to show the juveniles how to interact in a group. This “mentoring” job is very important in the social development of the younger birds. Birds that are not well socialized before they are released tend to have low survivorship in the wild.

Saticoy has integrated well into this group. He is very social, perching or roosting with just about anybody. Sometimes we see coalitions form among young birds, resulting in these birds only socializing with a few members of the cohort. Saticoy is comfortable with everybody; he seems to be a very confident and adaptable young condor! At feeding time, he defers to the older, more dominant birds, but still remains competitive enough to eat well at every feeding. Sisquoc and Shatash have done another great job in raising a healthy, strong chick.

Soon, we should receive notice of Saticoy’s release status, whether he will stay in one of the breeding facilities or be sent to one of the release sites in California, Arizona, or Mexico. We’ll let you know as soon we hear!

Next week, I’ll share updates on all of Saticoy’s older siblings. Be sure to check back!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, Condor Moving Day.

9

Condor Moving Day

Ron and fellow keeper Fatima Lujan hold Saticoy, who now sports red wing tag #36.

Saticoy, our California condor who hatched and was raised by his parents, Sisquoc and Shatash, while viewers watched on our Condor Cam, has officially flown the coop… in a manner of speaking. We removed him from his parents’ flight pen at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s California condor breeding facility and moved him to our remote socialization pen, approximately one mile from the main part of the Safari Park. There, he will be isolated from any human activity and socialized with other fledglings his age: males Siyi (pronounced “SEE-yee”), Nechuwa (pronounced “neh-CHOO-wah”), and Sukilamu (pronounced “soo-kee-LA-moo”). Saticoy will also be living with a 1-year-old juvenile female condor named Ihiy (pronounced “EE-hee”) and an 8-year-old adult female named Xananan (pronounced “ha-NA-nan”).

California condors expected to be released to the wild are called “release candidates.” We raise all of our condor chicks as if they are release candidates until we hear otherwise from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which oversees the California Condor Recovery Program. We have yet to hear if and/or where any of this year’s fledglings will be released; it may not be determined until December.

Release candidates are isolated from humans. We offer their food through a chute in the wall. The pools are drained and rinsed from the outside of the pen. We don’t pick up any of their old food. The only time the birds see us is during a medical procedure: affixing wing tags, pre-shipment examinations, or West Nile Virus inoculations. These generally are not enjoyable experiences for the young condors, and that is what we want them to learn from us before they are shipped to the wild. We don’t want them to associate humans with anything beneficial. We are hoping to foster behaviors that wild condors would have: avoiding human activity and hazardous, artificial situations. Survival rates for condors that become accustomed to humans and human activity are very low.

One of Saticoy’s new penmates has a very important role; Xananan, the adult, is acting as the young birds’ new “mentor.” Her job is to facilitate the socialization of the fledglings. Condors are very social and, like us, need to learn the rules of how to interact in a group. The parent condors started this process when the chicks hatched and continued it as the youngsters eventually fledged. Now that they are no longer living with their parents, Xananan will further their education. She will be the dominant bird in the pen, often displacing the fledglings from perches or roost sites or pushing them from the food until she has eaten first. The dominant birds at a site are usually the biggest ones and often the most experienced. The young condors need to learn how to interact with these dominant and pushy birds in order to be successful in the wild. Fortunately, for all four of this year’s chicks, their parents gave them all a big head start.

The socialization pen is very large with lots of space to fly around and exercise wings. There are several large oak snags on which to perch or roost. Also, there are two pools from which to drink or bathe. There are several ground-level perches and boulders to hop around on as well. It is interesting to see the social development of each bird. They can choose to perch next to whichever bird they wish, so they really get to know each other well. We have learned that young condors that aren’t well socialized tend not to be successful once they are released to the wild.

Before Saticoy was moved, we were able to affix a wing tag to his right wing. He is wearing a red wing tag with the number 36. We normally put the last two digits of the condors’ studbook numbers on the tags. Saticoy’s studbook number, the official number by which he is known in the California Condor Recovery Program, is 636. This wing tag helps to identify Saticoy so we can differentiate him from the other fledglings; they all have their own wing tag numbers. The wing tags serve the same purpose as leg bands do for any of the other birds you might see at the San Diego Zoo or the Safari Park. We just can’t use leg bands on the condors. One reason is that the leg bands would get encrusted with urates during urohydrosis, and it would become impossible to read the numbers on the band. Urohydrosis is the process in which condors, and all other New World vultures, keep cool. They excrete uric acid, or urates, on their bare legs. When this liquid evaporates, it cools the skin and the underlying blood vessels – similar to how sweating keeps us cool. Another reason condors get wing tags is that they are so strong, they can just bend the leg bands right off of their legs!

Saticoy was also weighed before he was moved to his new pen. He weighed in at 7.95 kilograms (17.5 pounds), very close to his adult weight. For those that don’t remember, he weighed only about 180 grams (6.3 ounces) when he hatched on March 10!

Thanks again for all of the interest, support, and great comments and questions over the past 5 1/2 months. It has been awesome to see how well the Condor Cam was received by all of Sisquoc, Shatash, and Saticoy’s new “family” of fans. It has been an honor to be able to acquaint you with these amazing, beautiful, and majestic birds! We hope to continue Condor Cam. The next breeding season usually starts around November, with eggs being laid around January. We would like to introduce you to another pair of condors, so you can get to know them as well as you got to know Sisquoc and Shatash. Please keep checking for any other updates we may post about Saticoy. Even though he is no longer on Condor Cam, his story is far from over!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, Condor Chick: Fledged!

0

10 Reasons for Hope

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that the current extinction rate for species on our planet is more than 1,000 times the rate it would be naturally, thanks to human factors. Climate change is implicated in reductions to water availability in ecosystems and ice in the Arctic. These days you only have to turn on the television to have a front row seat for the environmental disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. Everywhere you look, the news about the state of nature seems gloomy.

Working to make positive change in protecting rare species and their habitats is not an easy task. It takes the efforts of trained experts, working collaboratively, often on limited funds and against a ticking clock, to ensure the survival of a portion of our planet’s biodiversity. It requires the support of people and governments who believe in the value of such work. And it relies on the fundamental belief that such actions can make a difference. In short: it takes hope.

On May 21, Endangered Species Day, the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research will celebrate by launching its new initiative, “10 Reasons for Hope.” This effort draws attention to some of the successes we have had as a means by which to inspire us all to continue to fight the good fight. Our reasons for hope highlight projects making a difference in both wild and captive management of species at risk.

Several projects have contributed to increasing wild population numbers via reintroductions or translocations. The Institute has long been involved with the efforts to turn around the decline in California condor numbers; we have seen the wild population increase from 22 to 180 birds in recent years. In Hawaii, more than 200 puaiohi have been released into native forests. Close to home in Southern California, the numbers of endangered kangaroo rats have increased through translocations into good habitat. Without the work of our staff and partners, and the support of governments and communities, these species would have continued on their trajectory toward extinction. Now, we have witnessed the reversal of those trends.

There have also been significant achievements in managing captive populations. We have developed a screening lab for the chytrid fungus, which has devastated wild populations of amphibians the world over. By testing samples in captive populations, we can ensure their survival, and wild populations can be supplemented with animals from breeding programs. We helped launch Genome 10k, an effort to sequence the genomes of vertebrate species that will allow for better treatment of zoonotic diseases in both wild and captive animals. And the number of giant pandas in zoos and breeding centers worldwide should reach 300 this summer, ensuring a self-sustaining captive population.

Here’s something we can all be a part of: connecting our children to nature. There is an international movement to get kids out of the house and onto the trails, beaches, and parks in their area. Fostering this connection will ensure a future generation of environmental stewards, people who care enough to support conservation objectives. We can all participate by introducing our children, or other young relatives or friends, to the wilds in your own backyard.

The news of the world can be depressing, and the constant barrage of pleas for assistance or action on behalf of the world’s declining species and habitats can feel overwhelming. But take heart. In some places, and in big and small ways, efforts are making a difference. Our reasons for hope offer clear examples of how the battle can be won and how it is being won in many different ways. We invite you to allow a little hope to seep into the gloom and doom by visiting the 10 Reasons for Hope page. The future of biodiversity on the planet depends upon those who allow that spirit to guide them to action on behalf of us all.

Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.