News publishers have been selling off their collections of photographs and I have acquired several concerning the California condor. Many of these prints include some combination of cropping marks, captions, source information, and other notations.
The half-dozen news photos below all show a California condor up close.
Any captions for these photos, some of which were printed on the reverse side, are transcribed below the photo.
The caption of this 1953 photo by AP (Associated Press) provides evidence that efforts to breed condors in captivity, and the surrounding controversy, have a long history:
DUE FOR EXTINCTION? There are only some 60 California condors in existence — and experts are at variance how to save them from extinction. A San Diego Zoo official is stalking the wild mountain country north of Los Angeles to capture a pair of the birds, helping to provide the nucleus for a breeding stock. The National Audubon Society and other conservationists believe the one-man safari is more apt to upset those still alive and thus reduce their numbers than to set up a worthwhile propagation program. Here’s a striking shot the California condor, America’s largest [illegible word] bird, in its native haunts.
This AP photo from 1965 refers to another controversy involving the condor, the proposed construction of dams in prime condor habitat:
GOING FAST: The giant California condor is a 50 mph scavenger. But even that speed isn’t enough to save the vanishing species of buzzard, seen here in watchful repose. The big buzzard, which has a wing span of 11 feet, is the subject of controversy in California. Plans for two dams in the rugged mountains along the coast north of Los Angeles threaten 40 condors in the area. Bird lovers seek to divert the dam, planned to provide more and better water for the 140,000 people of the area.
These dams were never constructed.
The decline in the California condor population through most of the 20th century was attributed to many causes. The caption of this AP photo refers to a lesser-known problem threatening the condor’s survival:
CONDOR LOSING SEX DRIVE, SAYS BIOLOGIST — The California condor, largest soaring bird in North America which already is almost extinct, is losing the urge to mate, says Sanford Wilbur, biologist and researcher for the U.S. Bureau of Sports, Fisheries, and Wildlife. There are only about 50 condors still alive, says Wilbur, and their reproduction rate is decreasing. This condor, kept in a large wire screen cage in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, is the only one in captivity.
This head-on photo, produced by APN Sunday Illustrations in 1978, is just wonderful:
HER FUTURE IS LESS LONELY: Topa-Topa, the only condor in captivity, peer quizzically from a perch in her lonely cage at the Los Angeles Zoo. Soon she may have company: there’s a proposal to capture three of the 40 wild condors known to exist, so that with the two breeding pairs in captivity this rare species, California’s giant-winged vulture, may have a better chance to reproduce and survive.
Topa-Topa, referred to as female, was later determined to be male.
Finally, an AP photo from 1980:
FACES EXTINCTION — This giant California condor perched in its cage in the Los Angeles Zoo is one of the fewer than 30 condors that survive in an area that once ranged along the Pacific Coast from Canada to Mexico. Congress has passed a $2 million 20-year program to try and save the endangered species.
There is more to be said about all these photos and the birds they show. These topics will be considered in future posts.