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A portrait of a California condor, one of the world's largest flying birds, hangs opposite the desk of Nathan Dodder. The image is a constant reminder of the threatened bird that the San Diego State University analytical chemist is working to help save.
Along with SDSU environmental scientist Eunha Hoh and colleagues at the San Diego Zoo, Dodder recently received funding to study environmental toxins found along the coast that could impact the condor's reproductive success.
California - Condor - Gymnogyps - Californianus - Success
The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is one of the most famous success stories in species conservation. By the late 1980s, condors' eggshells had become dangerously thin, owing largely to human-caused factors. The agricultural pesticide DDT—now banned, but used widely for decades—as well as condors consuming animals that had been shot with lead pellets were leading causes for eggshell thinning. Once a common sight over California skies, the number of wild condors remaining dropped to just 22 in 1987.
That same year, a federally sponsored conservation program rounded up the remaining condors and began a captive breeding program headquartered San Diego Wild Animal Park (today known as the Safari Park) and the Los Angeles Zoo. As the condors bred, some were reintroduced into the wild. Most were released in California and Arizona, and a few were eventually released in Baja California, Mexico. Today, their numbers have rebounded to more than 440 known California condors in the wild or living in captivity.
Years - Conservationists - Trend - Condors - Environments
In recent years, however, conservationists noticed a worrying trend: Condors living in coastal environments, such as near Big Sur, California, had fewer successful egg hatchings than condors living further inland.
"As many as 40 percent coastal-living California condor breeding pairs showed evidence of eggshell thinning," Dodder explained.
Researchers - Condors - Diet
Researchers have hypothesized that the coastal condors' diet might partly explain why.
California condors are scavengers that primarily subsist on carrion, the decaying flesh...
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