Are California condors celebrities?

A National Geographic article referred to California condors as “celebrities”.

And there’s more. In Audubon magazine, George Laycock wrote that condors were “famed”. In a technical book about the Endangered Species Act, Reed Noss described the condor as a “glamour species”. Romanian author Leonard Oprea bestowed upon a fictional California condor what is perhaps the ultimate title of celebrity: “Californian superstar”.

California condors have been likened to particular human celebrities. A pair of squabbling condor parents were called the “Taylor and Burton of birds” by Julian Pettifer and Robin Brown. A fictional website (piedpiper.com) associated with the HBO comedy Silicon Valley calls the species the:

elegant, long-necked ‘Julia Robertses of the avian kingdom’

In Discover magazine, Bil Gilbert pointed to another celebrity couple as he criticized efforts to save the California condor:

The extreme rarity of condors and ferrets has been widely publicized. (The condor, in fact, has become a kind of Charles and Di story, what with breathless bulletins about little buster’s hatching at the San Diego Zoo, that adjunct of the Johnny Carson show.)

Just like human celebrities, condors have been the subject of several articles in People magazine, including this one from 1992:

(Articles in People have also made celebrities of some of the people who are working on condor recovery. This is well-deserved recognition that I will consider in a future post.)

I expect that when humans pay attention to an endangered species, the results are, overall, positive. Attention brings support for conservation efforts.

However, celebrity comes and goes. So it would be better to think of the California condor, and all endangered species, not as celebrities but as essential members of our community, members that we do not want to lose.

Condors have their day in Arizona. National Geographic. June 1997.

Laycock, George. The unhuntables are finally getting attention, funds. Audubon. May 1977.

Noss, Reed F. From endangered species to biodiversity. In Balancing on the brink of extinction: the Endangered Species Act and lessons for the future. Edited by Kathryn A Kohm. Island. 1991.

Oprea, Leonard. The book of Theophil Magus or 40 tales about man. 2001. Translated by Bogdan Stefenascu. 1st Books. 2003.

Pettifer, Julian, and Robin Brown, Nature watch. HarperCollins. 1994.

Gilbert, Bil. Why don’t we pull the plug on the condor and ferret? Discover. July 1986.

Reed, Susan K, and Lorenzo Benet. Return of the native. People. 10 February 1992.