For three years now it has been illegal for hunters or anybody else shooting at wildlife within sanctuaries for California condors to use ammunition that contains lead. Steel, tungsten, copper, depleted uranium for all I know, are ok . But a new study in the Proceedings of the Nat'l Academy of Sciences finds that many of the carrion-eating birds are still carrying chronic, dangerous quantities in their blood streams. Maybe it's old bullets still finding their way into the environment (pehaps in animals that got shot but lived on..) and more likely the inevitable poachers, land-owners, or others who didn't get the word on lead or don't care. Nobody is sure. Perhaps the birds have been using their ten-foot-wide wings to get them to areas not subject to the regulation?
But if nothing more is done the birds would it says here, spiral right back toward the oblivion to which they were headed half a century ago should people stop propping them up. That includes regular testing of wild-living condors for lead, followed by costly capture and chelation therapy for those with a toxic load. Isotope analysis leaves little doubt that ammunition is surely the lead's source.
Local and national press gave this news a good ride. One can hardly attribute it to the cute critter syndrome - but to its close relative, the ugly-but-iconic-critter syndrome that also applies to gray whales, Tasmanian devils, and bulldogs.I do have a question. Lead is given as one reason these birds' came close to extinction already, once. Is there an explanation why they are more vulnerable to lead than other scavengers?
- San Jose Mercury News - Paul Rogers: New study: Lead poisoning of condors at 'epidemic proportions' ; Forgive me for missing this first time through. Here is a complete package from Rogers with a clear explanation why the lead bullet ban is not working despite the cooperation of nearly all hunters (it is the 'nearly ' that is the killer), a map of the condors' range, an embedded video programthat the local PBS/NPR powerhouse in San Francisco, KQED, produced.
Originally listed stories -
- Santa Barbara Press - Matt Kettmann: Lead Kills Condors / New Study Confirms Known Dangers of Lead Ammunition, But Reveals More Disastrous Effects ; The reporter clearly has covered this sort of news before. He adds to his account a Q&A with one of the paper's authors. Plus, the outlet provides a link to the full paper, a pdf it put on its own server - and which in turn is now on ksjtracker's server, thank you very much, for access by our readers. This is a small weekly (paper version). So it gets a slide on editing - such as saying that the author did the Q&A to learn (herself) more. We know what the reporter meant.
- LA Times - Jon Bardin: Lead acutely threatens California condor population, study says ; Bardin notes that, with the existing ban not working, condor-defenders are part of a conservationist campaign to ban lead from hunters' ammunition nation-wide. It says here that a condor only has to dine off a lead-contaminated carcass once to get a poisonous dose. If one percent of carcasses are contaminated, that's enough to give all condors in the area a 50 percent chance of a dangerous exposure every year. Take your high blood pressure meds before reading the comment that starts out on 'tree hugger drivel' and goes downhill from there.
- San Francisco Chronicle - David Perlman : Condors' comeback imperiled by lead poisoning ; Old pal Perlman reports that he got calls and emails from hunters angry over the story. Most of them presumably are abiding by the ban - which he says he did address in his draft. Then the piece got trimmed for space and with no suggestion that most hunters are doing their best.
- LiveScience - Stephanie Pappas: California Condors face 'epidemic' lead poisoning, finds study ;
- NatureNews - Meera Subramanian : California condors face more lead menace ; Good stats, and where we learn that the NRA is lobbying hard against any regulation that gets the lead out of their precious hunting rifles.
- San Jose Mercury News - Paul Rogers: New study: Lead poisoning of condors at 'epidemic proportions' ; A complete package from Rogers with a clear explanation why the lead bullet ban is not working despite the cooperation of nearly all hunters (it is the 'nearly ' that is the killer), a terrific map of the condors' range, an embedded video program jproduced by the local PBS/NPR powerhouse in San Francisco, KQED -
- Charlie Petit