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The hard work of bringing back the California condor

To the editor: As one who participated in counts of California condors in the years prior to the captive breeding program, I am very happy to see their continuing success. I will always remember watching one bird fly past Frazier Mountain on one of those counts, soaring majestically, moving only the very tips of its wings to control its flight. ("California condors rise from the brink of extinction," editorial, Jan. 7)

Two things that the editorial missed, I feel, are important.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was instrumental in the rescue of the species, but so were the zoos in San Diego and Los Angeles, the National Audubon Society (of which I am a life member) and other conservation organizations.

The other point is the additional danger posed to the condor's survival, and to that of other natural carnivores, of rodenticides and similar poison baits that are used indiscriminately. The animals killed by the poisons remain and are eaten by condors, poisoning them.

The California condor rescue is a great example of action taken by humans toward our animal co-inhabitants of the planet. It's great that so far, the condor has not gone the way of the passenger pigeon.

Paul Cooley, Culver City

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To the editor: Your editorial states that condors roaming in the wild are "scouring carrion from the landscape."

Actually, the zoo biologists (as opposed to field biologists) in charge of the program have tried to train the birds to return to feeding sites where "carrion" is set out for them by humans. Otherwise the birds would starve or die of lead poisoning from whatever bullet-riddled carcasses they could scrounge.

When the condors lay an egg in the wild, it is always taken from the nest for incubation in a zoo. There hasn't been a birth in the wild since the last condors were captured in 1987.

Where condors are flying free, they are actually giving a false impression that the wilderness is improving. They're nice to gaze at, but the multi-millions spent to save the species could have been better invested in wildlands restoration that benefits many less majestic but more ecologically important creatures.

Neal Matthews, San Diego

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