Thanks to Conservationists' Efforts30 years ago, efforts began to save the California condor, an iconic species on the brink of extinction. Since then, a lot of progress has been made, and the last count revealed 405 known California condors. The population is split between 179 individuals living in zoos, and 226 living in the wild. But while the progress that has been made so far is encouraging, it's too early to say that the California condor has been saved:
When wildlife officials, conservationists and others drafted a recovery plan for the species in 1996, they determined that until there were at least 450 condors, they couldn't be considered for delisting under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Plus, that magic number comes with strings. According to the plan, condors need to be dispersed among three 150-bird populations -- two wild and one captive, with 15 breeding pairs in each group. And they have to be self-sustaining, reproducing and expanding on their own.
"We're not there yet," says John McCamman, who took over in March as California condor coordinator for USFWS.
Key among issues are lead poisoning caused by condors eating animals, or gut piles from animals, shot with lead ammunition.