California Condor

NAME

TITLE
Love The California Condor

GENDER
Male

AGE
23

FOUND
Arizona/Utah, California, and Baja California

CONSERVATION STATUS
Critically Endangered

This beautiful male is 23 years old and is one of the many who was bred in captivity and released back to the wild. He soars around his huge range in California searching for his lunch with his sharp eyes. He is very proud, he has already raised many chicks with his mate, helping to increase the numbers of his very small population. Thankfully the humans are working so hard to correct the wrongs they have done and help his kind to survive. He wishes they did this for all the animals.

One of the largest flying birds in the world, the California condor soars through the skies with a wingspan of 9 feet, tip to tip. Despite being so huge, this bird can soar for hours without ever needing to beat its wings. By riding the air currents, the California condor glides through the air, often at speeds over 55 mph in their search for food. Like vultures, they feed on carrion, dead animals that they have found on their long flights. But unlike the vulture who uses its sense of smell to find food, the condor uses its incredible eyesight to spot them while on the wing. They prefer to feed on large wild animals, once feeding on the megafauna that roamed the area. But with the reduction in wild food opportunities, they will often have to settle for smaller options.

Condors will mate for life, chosen through a performance by the male where he puffs his neck feathers and spreads his wings. The pair will find their nesting site, in the cliff caves of mountains or the cavities in giant sequoia redwood tree trunks. The female will lay only one egg at a time, laid in late winter or spring, which will take two months to hatch. Once hatched, the baby is completely dependent on its parents who will bring it food. After 5-6 months the chick is able to fly but will continue to stay and forage for food with their parents until they are in their second year. They still will not become sexually mature until they are 6 years old. For this reason, condors reproduce very slowly but they can live up to 60 years in age.

For a time it was unsure if California condors were going to be able to survive the threat of extinction. They once were found in many parts across North America but with the arrival of settlers, they were shot, poisoned, captured, had their eggs stolen, and their food supplies heavily reduced. By the late 1900s, they were only found in southern California. By the 1970s it was found that there were only a few dozen left in the wild. Thankfully, major conservation projects were initiated. But by the mid-80s, drastic measures were needed. All remaining birds were caught and taken to two captive breeding facilities. At this time they numbered just 27 birds. Through careful breeding to ensure no loss in genetic diversity, they were able to raise chicks and, eventually, were able to reintroduce many to the wild. They can now be found in central and southern California, Arizona, Utah, and Baja in Mexico with a total population of 518.

For the past 100 years it has been illegal to kill them, yet, of course, this doesn’t entirely stop poaching. But they still face many more problems. Lead contamination found in carcasses, poison bait, and pollution such as from the historical use of DDT has had a major impact. Lead poisoning is perhaps the biggest threat they face and work started in 2007 has been done to create a ‘non-lead’ zone for hunters, banning the use of lead-based ammunition in these areas.

HOW TO HELP 
Based off real animals that Gillie and Marc met while travelling, the public will be able to meet individual animals. 

With public art, more people will come into contact with these sculptures, will stop and consider them, will take a photograph, and will discuss this with their friends and family. Through this increased exposure, the message of love, family, and conservation will be spread much further than any piece of art in a gallery ever could. It will bring people into close contact and will help them to fall in love. With love comes a greater urge to want to create a change and save all endangered animals. 

​The sculpture will be aligned with the hashtags #LoveTheLast to raise unparalleled awareness about the sculpture’s cause across the globe.

To help protect these animals, please donate to the WWF: https://www.wwf.sg/

SOURCES