Saturday is National Public Lands Day. To mark the occasion, biologists at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument near Lees Ferry will release three endangered California condors into the wild. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’s the 20th year the giant birds have been released in the area.
Tomorrow’s event is part of a recovery project by the nonprofit Peregrine Fund. The group has been working for two decades to bring California condors back from the brink of extinction by releasing captive-bred birds in the wild. To date, they’ve set free more than 160 condors at the Vermillion Cliffs.
“In some ways the population is doing great but still very much limited by the number one cause of death and that’s lead poisoning, and we’re working with the management agencies to try to reduce that,” says Chris Parish, director the Peregrine Fund’s Condor Project.
Condors often ingest lead bullet fragments from gut piles left by hunters. For the last several years, Parish has spearheaded an effort to convince them to use non-lead ammunition. Last year, more than 90 percent of big-game hunters on the Kaibab Plateau took part in the program.
The California condor is one of North America’s largest birds with a wingspan of nearly 10 feet. Over the next two months, the Peregrine Fund plans to release 13 at the Vermillion Cliffs.