The California Condor and DDT: The Lingering Effects of Pollution
The nation’s largest bird, the California condor, has been the focus of a three to four decade effort to bring it back from the brink of extinction.
DDT, an insecticide used during WWII to control malaria and typhus among civilians and troops, as well as during the 1950′s and 1960′s for agricultural purposes in the United States, was causing the thinning of the eggshells of the bird’s offspring. When the mother sat on the eggs to incubate them, they would break. This has obvious consequences for their survival…
So why is DDT still a threat after 40+ years?
After making its way from fields and around peoples’ homes and into the Los Angeles sewer systems over the years, the DDT ended up in the seabed along the pacific coast – where it remains to this day.
It then continuously works its way up the food chain and into the flesh of the sea lions along the coast. The condors then feed on sea lion carcasses on the breeding grounds along western shores and ingest the DDT.
The main threat to their survival, was, and to some extent continues to be this effective, yet deadly pesticide. On top of dealing with the lingering effects of DDT, the Condors face another threat to their survival from lead bullet fragments left behind by hunters out west.
The bird’s brush with extinction, as is the case with so many other species, was due to unchecked human activities.
Maintaining species diversity is an important part of developing sustainably. Strong biodiversity means better ecosystem services for humans. Whether you like it or not, all living things are connected in some way. We have an incentive to save these birds.