By Barry Hirshfeld
Throughout 2020, California wildfires burned over four million acres of land; while mainstream news coverage mainly focused on the fiscal news of these fires, a whopping two billion dollars, the media often neglected another severe price of these fires, the destruction of numerous wildlife sanctuaries and habitats of California Condors.
Officially listed as extinct in the wild in 1987 due to invasive human actions such as: constant poaching, habitat destruction, and lead poisoning (received from consuming cracasses containing lead-based ammunition), a major conservation project was started to prevent the extinction of the California Condors. The remaining Condors were forcibly relocated to breeding centers in California zoos with hopes that their population would increase when provided a safe breeding environment. This endeavor proved successful, as the total population of these birds grew from 27 in 1987 to 446 in 2016.
Although remaining on the critically endangered species list, researchers began releasing California Condors in 1991, with the purpose of assessing reintroduction techniques. By 2019, the California Condor population grew to 518, reaching its height in the last three decades.
Unfortunately, misfortune struck on the dreadful night of August 18, 2020, where the Dolan Fire began and rapidly spread throughout Big Sur, burning over 127,000 acres of land, including the 80-acre California Condor sanctuary that has been used to protect the Condors since 1999. Furthermore, the fire directly resulted in the death of nine Condors, and the disappearance of five more which are currently unaccounted for.
The fate of the California Condor is still undecided, and as humans, we should show remorse and assume responsibility for our inhumane actions which caused a tragic loss of habitat and population for a critically endangered species: the California Condor.