This species declined rapidly throughout its historic range from British Columbia to Baja California during the 19th century and reportedly disappeared from outside California, USA, in 19372,25. The population had dropped to an all-time low of just 22 birds by 1981, and in 1983 eggs were first taken from wild nests for captive-rearing; in 1987 the species became extinct in the wild when the last of the six wild individuals was captured to join a captive-breeding recovery programme involving 27 birds2,4,31. Due to intensive captive breeding efforts the population increased to 223 birds by August 2003, comprising 138 in captivity, and 85 reintroduced in California and northern Arizona10. Breeding in the wild resumed in 2002, and by February 2009 56 nesting attempts had been recorded, from which at least 19 chicks have fledged and survived25. By December 2006, there were 130 wild birds at five release sites15,19, including at least 44 that were over six years old (the age at which breeding commences at the very earliest)14, and in May 2009, the total population stood at 169 individuals in captivity and 189 in the wild, primarily in southern California30. In January 2010, the number of released birds that had produced viable offspring stood at 44, with another 60 birds of breeding age29. The reintroduction programme continues and has expanded its geographic coverage, with six birds released into the Sierra de San Pedro Martir in Baja California, Mexico in 20029. A new release site in Baja was established in October 2003, and in December 2003 birds were released at another new site in California at the Pinnacles National Monument where one pair were observed raising chicks in 200924. Releases in New Mexico have been abandoned due to lack of funding, and release priorities have shifted to identifying sites and partnerships in southern Sierra Nevada, California13. The regular movements of the Arizona birds are confined to Coconnino County (Arizona) and Kane County (Utah), although a one individual wandered north to Flaming Gorge (Wyoming) and localities in Colorado before returning to the Grand Canyon area. The California birds occur regularly in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Ventura, Kern, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterrey, San Benito, and probably Santa Cruz counties. The Baja California birds are largely confined to the Sierra de San Pedro Martir15, where efforts are ongoing to increase the population to an anticipated carrying capacity of c.20 pairs21. The first chick born in Mexico for over 75 years hatched in April 2007. It is hoped these birds will range widely enough to be effectively connected with birds in the southern USA, and a recent success was recorded when a bird from the Baja population was seen in San Diego County in April 2007. Currently 19 chicks have fledged in the wild since reintroductions began25, although no second generation birds have yet matured to breeding age, hence no population can be deemed sustainable and without a ban on lead-shot within the condor's range none are likely to become so25.
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