Return of the Condor: The Race To Save Our Largest Bird From Extinction

Return of the Condor: The Race To Save Our Largest Bird From Extinction

by John Moir

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Return of the Condor is far and away the best book on the subject. John Moir covered the condor recovery effort for magazines and newspapers for years and his extensive and award-winning journalism, including an investigative piece for Birding magazine, became this fine book. Moir presents a unique insider's view of the remarkable tale of saving a species from the brink of extinction. Down to a population of only twenty-two in the 1980s, the condor owes its survival and recovery to a team of scientists who flouted conventional wisdom and pursued the most controversial means to save it. John Moir's account shows the depth of their passion and courage and details the bitter controversy that led to a national debate over how to save America's largest bird.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781461749073
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 10/01/2006
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
File size: 8 MB

About the Author

John Moir is a naturalist and science educator, and his articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, the San Jose Mercury News, and The Sacramento Bee, among others.

Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1
The Last Condor

Jan Hamber faced an agonizing dilemma. The condor she had been tracking—the last member of its species to exist in the wild—had approached a trap site on remote Hudson Ranch north of Los Angeles. It was late on a spring day in 1987, and Hamber watched through binoculars as AC9 landed near the stillborn calf that served as bait. The condor circled the carcass, keeping his distance while a Golden Eagle fed on the calf. The sunlight accented AC9's intelligent eyes and bare, salmon-colored head. An ink-black ruff of feathers circled the base of his neck. As AC9 stretched and refolded his wings, the undersides flashing white, the sun sank lower over the chaparral-covered hills. But AC9 flew away without touching the carcass.
Hamber followed the bird in her car, tracking his radio signal to a roost site on nearby Brush Mountain. She wore a wool cap over her short brown hair, and a bulky light-blue goosedown jacket to ward off the cool air settling into the canyons. The tiny crow's feet at the corners of her eyes were evidence of the many hours she spent squinting through binoculars and spotting scopes.
When Jan first encountered AC9 in 1980, he was still a downy young chick in his nest, and over the years she had watched him mature into an adult bird. She had a photograph from two months earlier of AC9 looking down from a bare oak tree as biologists carried away the only other remaining wild condor, which they had just captured. A mere 27 condors were left in the world: the recovery effort Jan worked for represented the last hope for saving the species from extinction. And AC9 was crucial to their success.
Darkness forced Hamber to make a momentous decision. "I knew what would happen," she told me years later, the memories still vivid. "AC9 had seen the carcass, but he hadn't eaten yet. He would come back the next day." She took a breath and considered her next move. Should she notify her team of fellow condor biologists to set a trap for AC9 in the morning? Or should she simply turn her car homeward, leaving the last wild condor his freedom? "I realized not a single soul in the world knew about this except me. I could call in the team to capture AC9. But if I didn't make that call, no one would ever know."
Jan checked the dashboard clock. Doing nothing was a decision by default—she needed to take charge, to make up her mind. Had any other human ever confronted such a quandary, she wondered: knowingly capturing the last individual of a species? Despite the work of all the science panels and government agencies, tonight this decision was hers alone. The future of the last wild condor, and perhaps of the species itself, rested in her hands. Earlier in the day she'd listened as the call of a Red-tailed Hawk echoed down a nearby canyon; she knew her call would reverberate even louder and longer, quite probably through the rest of her life. She thought again: This recovery effort is the last hope.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The Last Condor
Chapter 2 Giant Avian Primates
Chapter 3 Dancing Molokbes and Sinister Buzzards
Chapter 4 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Chapter 5 Death of a Chick
Chapter 6 Doin' the Double-Clutch Two-Step
Chapter 7 Point of No Return
Chapter 8 Kids on the Loose
Chapter 9 A Senseless Shooting
Chapter 10 AC8's Day in Court
Chapter 11 Shadows in the Sky
Chapter 12 Homeward Bound
Appendix 1 Where to See Condors
Appendix 2 How to Learn More About Condors

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