California condors return to Mexico after 65 years
MEXICO CITY - Three endangered California condors were released into the wilderness of Mexico\'s Baja California Peninsula this week, the first of the giant birds to return to that natural habitat in 65 years.
Born and raised in the Los Angeles Zoo, the 4-year-olds - a female and two males - were set free in Sierra de San Pedro Martir National Park in northern Baja California after spending several weeks in an aviary in the park, the Environment Ministry said.
\"The year 1937 was the last time the condors were seen there, territory where they had lived during centuries,\" said ministry spokesman Jaime Alejo.
The condor\'s habitat once stretched along the Pacific Coast from Canada to Mexico and through much of the Southern United States.
Hunters, pesticides and even power wires helped ravage the condor population in North America, putting the species on the brink of extinction, with only 27 left in 1988.
Recovery programs have slowly helped rebuild the population, with 76 condors living in the wild in California and Arizona, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said on its Web site in an August article.
The newly released condors are among six flown from Los Angeles in August to be released in the Baja California mountains in a joint conservation program with the United States. Three remained in the aviary to be released later.
Among other dangers, they face the threat of hunting by local residents, mostly cattle ranchers, who have traditionally feared the birds would attack children and livestock.
A scavenger, the condor eats only the meat of animal carcasses and poses no danger to humans. The relocation program includes teaching local residents about the condor and placing food for the birds as they adapt to the wild.
Monitors on their wings will allow biologists to track their movements.
One of the world\'s largest birds, weighing up to 22 pounds (10 kg) with a wingspan up to 10 feet (3 metres), condors may live 20 years in the wild, with 45 years the longest recorded life span in captivity.
Story by Lorraine Orlandi
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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