Several conservation groups announced that a reward fund totaling over $30,000 has been established for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who shot and killed condor AC-8. AC-8 was found shot on February 13, 2003 on a large ranch in Kern County, California.

Condor AC-8 was one of only about eighty endangered California condors remaining in the wild. She was born in the wild, and in 1986 became one of the last wild condors to be captured for a captive breeding program intended to rescue the giant birds from extinction. After hatching twelve eggs in captivity, Condor AC-8 was released in April 2000, the first of the original wild birds to be let free.

Peter Galvin, California and Pacific Director for the Center for Biological Diversity, stated, “We are hopeful that the establishment of this reward fund will help investigators solve this heinous crime.” Galvin added, “The California condor is a powerful symbol of the wild. We are deeply committed to making sure that our children and grandchildren can experience the majesty of these amazing animals.”

After receiving pledges from numerous conservation groups and a $25,000 pledge from Wendy P. McCaw Foundation of Santa Barbara, the reward fund currently stands at $31,500. The Wendy P. McCaw Foundation supports animal welfare and wildlife protection efforts and has supported condor protection efforts in the past.

The California condor is listed as an endangered species and is protected by both federal and state law. Killing a condor carries a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment and a fine of $100,000. The law enforcement division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the recent killing and the agency pledged an unspecified reward for information. The conservationists’ reward fund will be paid out in its entirety through the end of 2004 to anyone whose information leads to the conviction.

Condors were in decline most of the twentieth century because of human induced changes to their habitats and because of poisoning. The long-lived birds breed slowly. They travel vast distances to secure enough to eat, making them vulnerable to power lines and other developments. And, because they scavenge carrion, they have been inadvertently poisoned by the federal predator killing agency, have succumbed to lead bullets in carcasses they were eating, and even drank antifreeze.

The multi-agency condor recovery team, authorized under the Endangered Species Act, initiated the captive breeding and reintroduction program which has established two populations, one in southern California and the other in the Grand Canyon area of Arizona and Utah. Another 118 condors remain in captivity at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. Biologists are investigating the possibility of creating a third population in southern New Mexico.

Anyone with information regarding the shooting should call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 916-414-6664 or the California Department of Fish and Game’s CalTIP Program at 1-888-dfg-caltip.

Groups Participating in the Reward Fund:

Wendy P. McCaw Foundation Center for Biological Diversity
Friends of Animals
Environmental Defense Center Kern Chapter
Audubon Society
Ventana Wilderness Alliance Ventana Chapter
Sierra Club Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment