Visions of the North Coast: healthy ecosystems in the eyes of our youth
The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) used to range from British Columbia to northern Baja California, but declined to 22 birds by the 1980’s. In 1987, the remaining condors were taken from the wild to be managed in a captive breeding program, with the intent of increasing the population and reintroducing condors back into the wild. Current condor release sites are located in Arizona, Southern California, and Baja California.
The condor is considered sacred to the Yurok Tribe and has been spiritually tied to Yurok ceremonies since the beginning of the world. In order to expand the condor’s range into Northern California and to return a culturally significant animal to their lands, the Yurok Tribe is working to make the Yurok Ancestral Territory a safe place to establish a new condor release site. One of the greatest threats to reintroduced condors is lead poisoning from bullet fragments in the gut piles of big game animals left in the field by hunters. Thus, explaining this connection to hunters and informing them about alternatives to lead ammunition is critical to the success of condor reintroductions in Northern California. Further, instilling the community’s youth with an understanding of the importance of their connection to the environment provides a future generation of teachers, armed with the knowledge to spread this important lesson.
Sequoia Park Zoo has awarded the Yurok Tribe with a conservation grant to design and produce a set of educational posters to use as part of their outreach presentations to school children and hunters. Local natural history artists and Yurok Tribe artists will collaborate on the design and artwork. These posters will describe the plight of the California condor, facts on condor biology, and the history of connection between condors and the tribes indigenous to our region. The posters will also convey information on the risks to both wildlife and humans from the use of lead ammunition for harvesting wild game. These posters are intended to instruct the community’s youth on the cultural and ecological value of condors, and to inspire changes in cultural hunting practices that will impact the future of this magnificent bird.