Nearly a decade ago, I spent an enjoyable afternoon hiking in Pinnacles National Park, central California. The park had been designated a National Monument after more than a century. Pinnacles was, according to me, famous for its eponymous rock formations and the endangered California condors that soared above them.
My understanding since I was a kid—which is when you learn most of what you will ever learn about animals—had been that there were like five California condors left and that they lived in some rocky equivalent of an ICU, monitored by teams of condorologists. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife I was approximately Correct—the year I was born, the last wild California condor was captured and put in a zoo, and teams of biologists began raising condor chicks in captivity and working to reintroduce the birds back into their natural environment. In 2003, condors were reintroduced back to Pinnacles.
It was an amazing experience to be able to see them. I spent many years telling people about my Pinnacles National Park experience and how I saw real California condors. I discovered that California condors can fly up to nine-and-a half feet and that regular vultures are what I saw that day. They’re still very cool—literally, they defecate on their legs to lower their body temperatures. But they’re not being brought back to life in zoos. Sometimes, you can find them in parking lots.
Why do I mention all this? The California condor recovery project has reached another milestone. Two condors were reintroduced in Northern California’s forests on Tuesday as part a joint effort by Redwoods National Parks, Yurok Tribe, and Redwoods National Parks. Tiana Williams-Claussen is a Yurok tribal biologist who explained the significance of the reintroduction to the region of the condor Prey-go–neesh in an essay she wrote this spring. Living Bird magazine:
The 20th century saw the death of our last known condor. Prey-go-neesh Many tribes in California and the Pacific Northwest consider it to be of profound cultural significance. The Yurok believes this is due to his connection with world renewal, and our reason for existence. Many families, including my own, believed that the condor was sacred and should not be hurt. Prey-go-neesh He was one of the first spirits to be born in the world. He taught us how to maintain balance and live in harmony. He was a kind-hearted spirit and one of renewal. He helped to establish our world-renewal rituals, providing a song, a prayer, and carrying our prayers to God when we ask for balance in the world. We use condor feathers we have received in our regalia. They carry the spirit of Prey-go-neesh, were considered to be gifts. The loss Prey-go-neesh was devastating.
The introduction of the condors this week was only a beginning, but it’s a huge step, one that means a lot to a lot of people, and that a lot of work has gone into making happen. I’m fired up just reading about it. You can You can watch the livestream of the condors in their new home if you want; as I type this, they’re eating lunch.