MARBLE CANYON — A group of 12 California condors was scheduled to arrive at Vermilion Cliffs near Grand Canyon Tuesday with the endangered birds’ release scheduled for early next year.
Twelve more condors will be released at Vermilion Cliffs early next year. (GCN file photo)
When they are released, Grand Canyon’s California condor population will grow from 25 to 37.
Eleven of the condors hatched this year at the Peregrine Fund’s breeding facility in Boise, Idaho. The other condor is a female that hatched in 1999 and was brought back into captivity on April 11, 2000, due to her interaction with humans.
Wildlife biologists have been observing the condor in captivity for more than 18 months and feel she is ready to be re-released.
Officials hope the condors are close to breeding in the wild.
"There are now 12 condors in Arizona that are old enough to pair up," said Dr. William A. Burnham, president of the Peregrine Fund. "Since an egg was laid last year, we feel that we are on the brink of condors breeding in the wild. Once this occurs, it would be the first condor reproduced in the wild since 1986 and would be further confirmation that the recovery effort is on track."
The condors were scheduled to be transported Tuesday from Boise to Page on a U.S. Forest Service plane being provided by the Bureau of Land Management.
From Marble Canyon, they were to be taken to the specially designed aviary on top of Vermilion Cliffs.
The birds will stay at Vermilion Cliffs until early next year’s release to become acclimated to their new surroundings.
The release is a joint project between the Peregrine Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM, Arizona Game and Fish Department, National Park Service, Coalition of Resources and Economies and numerous other partners.
The Peregrine Fund is largely funding and conducting the release. The BLM and NPS are managing the habitat. Fish and Wildlife is responsible for the overall recovery of the species. And Arizona Game and Fish is responsible for all wildlife in the state.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is presently conducting a formal review of the California condor reintroduction program in Arizona and Utah, now in its fifth year.
"We’ve enjoyed meeting with local citizens and officials and federal land managers to better understand their concerns regarding management of the condors and how the program may be affecting their communities," said Jeff Humphrey, Fish and Wildlife’s condor reintroduction coordinator.
Input from the conservation and scientific communities was solicited.
"We are anxious to receive input from a variety of perspectives so that we can refine our recovery efforts and strengthen public acceptance of the condor recovery effort, Humphrey said."
There are currently 183 California condors in the world, 57 in the wild of California and Arizona and 126 in captive breeding facilities at the World Center for Birds of Prey, Zoological Society of San Diego and the Los Angeles Zoo.