A specimen of California condor.Marcio Jose Sanchez (AP)
The California condor flies back in the skies of Mexico. This species, which had been considered extinct in Mexican territory since 1939, has been rescued thanks to a joint work between Mexican and American authorities and experts. The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Conanp) announced the release in mid-May of six specimens of this condor in the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park, in the Baja California Peninsula, with which environmentalists estimate that there are already 42 individuals flying free in Mexico.
The rescue of the condor has occurred with the work promoted by experts from the Mexico-United States Program for the Recovery of the California Condor, an initiative that has allowed the release of these birds. Of the six released in May, four of them were in protection at the Chapultepec Zoo, and two more at the San Diego Zoo, in the United States, Conanp said in a statement. "Additionally, two more specimens, born in 2022, will be transferred to the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park," they report from that institution. This region of the California Peninsula is the only habitat where the population of this species lives in Mexico.
The California condor was declared extinct in Mexico in 1939, due to several reasons, including habitat destruction. Conanp experts have explained that in 1980 the environmental authorities of the United States registered a reduced population of the bird in the valleys of California, with which they made the decision to capture several specimens to try to reproduce them and reintroduce them in their natural space, which is the entire area of California and Baja California. "In 1987, the reproduction of the species and its subsequent release to free life in the State of California was successfully achieved," they report from Conanp. U.S. authorities worked two decades later with Mexican authorities to introduce the bird into Mexico. It was in 2002 when they made the first liberation in the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir. "In the following years, the releases of condor specimens born under human care continued, and a few years after being released, the species began to reproduce in the wild. By 2020, there were more than 20 California condors. Currently, there is a free-living population of approximately 42 individuals," the experts explain.
Much of the efforts to reproduce the California condor under human care in Mexico have been in the hands of researchers at the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City, who have developed outreach programs on this species. This is the only place in the country where the reproduction of the species has been achieved, with the birth of 11 specimens of the condor since 2007.
The bird is one of the endangered species in Mexico that authorities are trying to protect, as is the case with the vaquita, an inhabitant of the Gulf of California, which is on the verge of disappearing. A group of scientists have celebrated this week the sighting of at least 13 individuals of these cetaceans, the largest population found in the Gulf of California since 2021, when only eight vaquitas were recorded.
The California condor is considered the largest bird in North America, with a wingspan of up to three meters and an estimated weight of up to 11 kilograms. From beak to tail, a specimen can measure up to 120 centimeters in length. These birds are part of the vulture family and feed on carrion of land and marine mammals. "The work that has been done with the California condor is an example of the success that a multi-institutional collaboration project can achieve for the recovery of an endangered species," they say from Conanp, which celebrates that this species crosses the Mexican skies again.
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