Vaccine could save endangered California condors from succumbing to fowl flu


Enlarge / A numbered and tagged California Condor within the wild. (credit score: Academic Photos through Getty)

Early March final yr, an endangered California condor—considered one of lower than 350 of its form surviving within the wild—perched on an Arizona cliff face staring into house for days. It’s most likely sick from lead poisoning, thought Tim Hauck, the condor program director with The Peregrine Fund, a nonprofit conservation group serving to to reintroduce condors to the skies above Grand Canyon and Zion. These bald-headed scavengers—weighing as much as 25 kilos with black-feathered wings spanning practically 10 toes—typically fall sufferer to steer publicity once they devour the flesh of cows, coyotes, and different massive mammals killed by ranchers and hunters firing lead bullets. Listlessness and droopy posture are telltale indicators. “We had been like, I wager this fowl’s received into one thing dangerous,” stated Hauck.

His workforce of eight wildlife biologists stationed at Arizona’s scenic Vermillion Cliffs Nationwide Monument, 150 miles north of Flagstaff, hoped the ailing condor would glide down off its 1,000-foot sandstone ledge to go to their feeding station, the place they may lure it to do a well being examination. The Peregrine Fund gives supplemental meals for the condors—most of which had been raised in captivity and launched into the wild—partly so the biologists can simply catch them for normal checkups, present remedy for lead poisoning, vaccinate in opposition to West Nile virus, and replace tools used to trace the condors’ whereabouts.

Every week later, when the sick fowl did lastly get trapped on the feeding station, Hauck instantly seen one thing he hadn’t seen earlier than in lead-poisoned condors. Its eyes had been cloudy, a situation known as corneal edema. He consulted with Stephanie Lamb, a veterinarian who volunteers at Liberty Wildlife Heart, a Peregrine Fund associate group in Phoenix. He wished to know if she thought the condor is perhaps unwell from one thing extra worrisome than lead poisoning: extremely pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, the virus liable for the deaths of tens of millions of untamed birds and home chickens worldwide over the last two years. HPAI kills 90 to 100 p.c of home poultry it infects, typically inside 48 hours, although much less is thought concerning the mortality charges for wild birds. Corneal edema, Lamb advised him, was certainly on the checklist of signs.

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