Thursday, November 12, 2009

No, you cannot have my condor

Since the last 22 California condors were taken into a captive breeding program in 1982, environmentalists have spent countless hours of hard work and approximately 40 million dollars (in addition to their own personal resources) to bring these birds back from human-driven extinction.

They did it. Today, there are close to 300 alive and well, with almost half of those flying free in the wild. It's not a done deal yet, but they've proven that hope and hard work can win, and we can clean up our mistakes.

Condor hatchling being fed with a parent puppet

Now the major problem is that people are fighting tooth and nail to keep on making those mistakes. Condors in the wild are still dying from lead poisoning, and the current data points to lead bullets in carcasses left by hunters. There's renewed action to do something about this, but the NRA is determined that no one should have to adjust their hunting methods, equipment, or locale. They've sicced their lawyers at a ban on lead bullets, citing a previous agreement that the condor program would only be allowed to release birds if it "didn't interfere with hunting".

The NRA is using it's usual tactics of selfish ego-tripping thinly disguised as Patriotism & Protection Of Family, By God. It doesn't even have the integrity to back up claims that the research is a lie with any references to who their "debunking the so-called science" experts are. It's just more of "These damned tree-huggers want children to starve, and undermine our constitutional rights"!

Aside from dirtbags who just target shoot because it makes them feel like a badass and don't care if they retrieve a kill or not, sometimes an animal is beyond retrieval by a responsible hunter's best efforts. Doesn't that make using copper or alternative ammo a decent enough idea? I know deer hunters that do use them, and even prefer them to lead. I've found the leftovers in a few of the carcasses I get from Meismer's. Copper costs a bit more, but in the words of my uncle Jimmy, who hunted all his life, "'at'll teach ya to not waste ammo, ya goddam idiot". Asking someone to use an alternative ammunition (and even offering to give it away free) isn't keeping anyone from hunting or having a gun.

Give the linked articles a read for the details and stats that are coming back per the National Park Service and Arizona's Fish & Game Departments, and the Center For Biological Diversity's hiring a PI to look into the shooting of two condors who may have been victims of a retaliatory gesture against the proposed lead bullet ban.

Condors are sort of the epitome of one of my lifelong totem animals, and are the only surviving members of the Gymnogyps genus, which has been with us since the Pleistocene era. I think it's criminal that we've come such a long way toward bringing them back, only to have them endangered again by a problem that isn't catastrophically hard to do something about. CBD scores high (4 stars out of five) on Charity Navigator. They're fronting the bill for the condor lawsuit; give them a look over if you're up for it. These big guys can live up to 50 years; they deserve an even chance to do so.

Just as a side note, you can meet Steve Hoddy, part of the team who went into the Grand Canyon to find them back in the 70's, at the Georgia Renaissance Festival's raptor show put on by Earthquest. He rocks.

Steve with Storm, an Andean Condor. Andean rescue programs paved the way for North American birds' survival. Ain't she gorgeous?

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