Thursday, June 28, 2012

California condors could be again in trouble

California condors could find themselves once again in serious trouble just like this was the case in 1980s. In 1987 there were only 22 condors remaining in the wild, and they were captured and bred in San Diego Zoo Safari Park where conservationists managed to stop further decline in condor population. Today there are around 400 California condors in the wild.

The main factors that led to serious decline in California condor population were habitat loss, poaching and lead poisoning. Sadly, by the current looks of it lead poisoning could once again spell huge danger for condors in the wild.

In the latest study led by the environmental toxicologists at the University of California the scientists have expressed fear that California Condors could once again find themselves in trouble because of the lead poisoning from ammunition.

Condor’s main diet includes carcasses of large mammals such as deer. While feeding on these carcasses condors can ingest fragments of lead bullets leading to lead poisoning and eventual death.

Myra Finkelstein, a research toxicologist at UC Santa Cruz said that: „California condors are tagged and monitored, captured twice a year for blood tests, and when necessary treated for lead poisoning in veterinary hospitals, and they still die from lead poisoning on a regular basis“.

Not only have scientists found high lead isotope ratios in blood of free-flying condors, they have also discovered excessive lead levels in feathers, which led them to conclusion that birds are in fact chronically lead poisoned.

What this means is that without the continued releases of captive-reared birds and interventions to treat lead-poisoning, the condor population would again experience serious decline in population, and head to extinction.

The current measures of intensive management are helping condors to maintain their current numbers but nonetheless something has to be done to solve this worrying lead poisoning issue.

In 2008, California partially banned the use of lead ammunition in condor habitat. This ban has so far not fulfilled its purpose and has not been able to reduce the lead levels in blood of the condors. 

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