Journal of the History of Biology 37 (3):557 - 583 (2004)

In the early 20th century, after hundreds of years of gradual decline, the California condor emerged as an object of intensive scientific study, an important conservation target, and a cultural icon of the American wilderness preservation movement. Early condor researchers generally believed that the species' survival depended upon the preservation of its wilderness habitat. However, beginning in the 1970s, a new generation of scientists argued that no amount of wilderness could prevent the condor's decline and that only intensive scientific management - including captive breeding - could save the species from certain extinction. A bitter and highly politicized battle soon developed over how to best preserve the condor. For 5 years the condor was extinct in the wild; however, by the time that officials released the first captive-bred birds the condor recovery program had garnered widespread public support, even among its former critics. Today, condor advocates from the scientific and activist communities work together to manage the species and protect its habitat. The condor's story illustrates some of the tensions, problems, and successes that have accompanied the rise of conservation biology as a scientific field and environmental movement in the United States.
Keywords California condor  conservation biology  endangered species  wildlife management
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DOI 10.1007/s10739-004-2083-6
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