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Condor Comeback

Condor Comeback

Sy Montgomery, Photography by Tianne Strombeck
HMH Books for Young Readers
96 pp.
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In 1987, the last California condor in the wild was taken into captivity. Along with 21 others of its kind—together representing the last of the species—the bird was used to launch a captive breeding program. The eventual goal of the program was to return condors to the wilds of the western United States. Part of the Scientists in the Field series, this book tells the condor’s comeback story through the work of conservation scientist Estelle Sandhaus, director of conservation and science at the Santa Barbara Zoo, and her collaborators. The book details Sandhaus’s efforts to identify how human intervention can ensure that individual birds thrive outside of captivity, thereby ensuring that the wild population will grow.

Condors still face multiple threats, including potentially serious health risks associated with eating “microtrash” (for example, small pieces of metal, shards of glass, or plastic packaging) and carcasses containing lead shot. The book takes readers along on a health assessment of wild birds and highlights the many ways in which they are monitored, providing insight into the job of a conservation scientist. Monitoring, together with captive breeding and reintroduction programs, community outreach, and policies banning lead shot, has resulted in successful reproduction and reintroduction into the wild.

Today, there are more than 450 California condors, about half of which are living in the wild. However, more conservation scientists are needed to ensure the species’ continued success. Hopefully this book will encourage children to consider entering this field.

About the author

The reviewer is a senior editor at Science.