Science

How is the Yurok tribe bringing back the California condor?

in great shape , The California condor is a New World vulture, the largest North American land bird. This condor became extinct in the wild in 1987, but the species has been reintroduced in California and Arizona.

Teahe first california Condor arrived by plane and car in late March 2022 to reach the Yorok ancestral land in more than a century. The landing of the small plane carrying the Condor 746 was rough, and the birds were jittery. He snuck into a large dog crate during the three-hour drive to the tribe’s newly built condor facility, in a remote location in Redwood National Park.

Once there, he was fitted with flight pens, a long circle of wire mesh, log perches, and a drinking pool. At 8 years old, the condor 746 is an adult, its naked head being bright pink instead of the black color found in smaller birds. She is on loan from the captive breeding program at the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. His job is to serve as protectors for four juvenile birds who would become the founders of a reborn condor society in the country of Yurok.

“We have consultants because condors are so social,” says Joe Burnett, California condor recovery program manager at the Ventana Wildlife Society. Young birds will grow unruly in a pen without an adult. “do you get Lord of the Flies syndrome,” Burnett says. He and his colleagues quickly learned that release programs require an adult to serve as a role model and to enforce social hierarchies that are critical to herd survival. Is.

A few days after the arrival of the 746, the Condor A0, at the age of 2, entered the flight pen. The first thing he focused on was the 746, which was sitting on a perch. Realizing that he was in a safe place, A0 examined the food—the carcass of a dead calf—then flipped onto a perch and flapped its wings, a sign of avian contentment. Three young male conductors tagged A1, A2 and A3. The young people had been living together for months at other Condor facilities in Boise, Idaho, and San Simeon, Calif., and they already felt at home with each other.

Kondor, known in the native language as Pre-go-nish, is sacred to the Yurok people. The Yurok Reservation is located along the Klamath River in northwestern California, but most of the tribe’s ancestral land is now in the hands of government agencies or private landowners. The tribe has been working to bring the California condor back since 2003, when a group of elders identified the bird as an important species to both culture and ecology, and therefore the most important land-based creature in need of restoration.

Nineteen years after Yurok’s bold decision, the conductor arrived. The elders working toward that pivotal moment watched as Tiana Williams-Clawson, director of the Yurok Wildlife Department, and her colleagues left each newcomer to the pen.

Williams-Clawson’s job is to understand the details of condor biology and to explain the Yurok culture to the wider world. A tribal member, she grew up on the coast near the mouth of Klamath, and went to Harvard University. She wasn’t ready to be a condor biologist, but when she returned in 2007 with a degree in biochemical science, condor restoration was the job her people needed her to do. Williams-Clawson has since spent 14 years learning how to handle them, building partnerships with government agencies, and listening to what the elders of Yurok had to say about the great bird.

The California condor is a critically endangered species: in the 1980s, the total population was reduced to less than 30 individuals. The biologists concluded that the species’ only chance of survival lay in capturing every living condor so that the birds could be kept in captivity, protected from poison and power lines.

However, reintroducing condors into the wild proved difficult, and the process turned out to be a dramatic lesson for biologists on the importance of rearing and the slow growth rate among these long-living, highly social birds. Scientists learned that time spent with adults was crucial to the behavioral development of young condors. They also found that in a species where adults follow and guard their offspring for a year or more after the birds have fled, young ones that are leading from the condor into a landscape empty are more likely to survive. Too many human babies require care.

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