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by Wendy Stackhouse · June 27, 2012

California Condors Remain Endangered by Lead

California Condors have made a remarkable recovery from near extinction, but that recovery is threatened by lead poisoning from ammunition.

Toxicologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz have found that California Condors are being poisoned by lead and that lead is from ammunition. This lead poisoning is affecting the species’ ability to recover from its near extinction, which animal protection activists have been working against for decades. Toxocologist Myra Finkelstein says,” California condors are tagged and monitored, trapped twice a year for blood tests, and when necessary treated for lead poisoning in veterinary hospitals, and they still die from lead poisoning on a regular basis.”

A bit of history of the California Condor:

As of 1982, there were only 22 California Condors.
Captive breeding since then has grown the population to over 400 birds by 2010.
Those California Condors have been released into the wild.

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Since 1997, about half of all California Condors have needed treatment for lead poisoning, at a rate of about 20% of the Condor population per year. Condors are scavengers and ingest lead from ammunition when eating animals which have been brought down by hunters. Lead poisoning may very well have been one of the factors which brought Condors so near extinction in the 1980’s. Researchers have also found that there is lead present in the blood of birds which does not rise to the level of “poisoning” per se, but definitely affects the health and lifespan of these magnificent birds.

The California Condor population is stable at the moment, with the help of intensive preservation efforts. The State of California has banned the use of lead ammunition in the Condor habitat, but that ban has not reduced the numbers of cases of lead poisoning in the birds. Stricter regulation on lead ammunition would help, but is strenuously fought by gun advocacy organizations.

Perhaps we do too many lead poisoning stories on the Alliance blog, but with lead an ongoing source of health problems for both humans and wild animals, coming from homes, hunting, compost heaps and other sources, we feel that any reduction in the use of lead is a good one. If your pre-1978 home is part of the problem, you can be part of the solution. Contact Alliance Environmental Group for help with safe lead paint removal and know that lead from your home or other building will never be a problem for a child or a beautiful wild thing.

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for Alliance Environmental Group and AirTek Indoor Air Solutions. We welcome your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on indoor air challenges, Like us at AirTek on Facebook!

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