Tuesday, August 14 , 2018, 1:04 am | Overcast 67º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Free Mobile App Developed on Conservation Practices Used to Rescue California Condor from Extinction

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Santa Barbara Zoo announced release of 'Condor Country'

California condors in their enclosure at the Santa Barbara Zoo, which has five female birds. The zoo and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced the release of a free mobile app called Condor Country, which allows mobile game players to experience what it’s like to encounter the real-life conservation efforts for the giant birds. Click to view larger
California condors in their enclosure at the Santa Barbara Zoo, which has five female birds. The zoo and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced the release of a free mobile app called Condor Country, which allows mobile game players to experience what it’s like to encounter the real-life conservation efforts for the giant birds. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Mobile game players can now experience what it’s like to encounter the real-life conservation efforts behind saving the California condor from extinction.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Santa Barbara Zoo announced the release of a free mobile app called Condor Country Tuesday. 

The California condor—with red eyes, a bare head, a razor-sharp beak and enormous black wings with a plumage of white patches on the underside—is a federally endangered species.

Paul Souza, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest Region, said this is the first mobile game that educates on the realistic conservation practices of an endangered bird.

“We’ve never seen an app that focuses on endangered species conservation,” Souza said. “I’m glad we picked the condor because this is truly an amazing conservation success story. This species is charismatic, iconic and people want to see a recovery success like this.”

Available on iOS and Android devices, the game simulates the activities of field biologists and zoo keepers who are helping save North America’s largest bird.

Gamers will hatch eggs, release chicks into the wild, and watch over a flock of condors to monitor for health threats.

“In the game, users are managing the population,” said Estelle Sandhaus, director of conservation and research at the Santa Barbara Zoo. “They learn what it takes to manage a flock of condors, and gamers are even tasked with fundraising. That’s a reality we face every day.”

A tagged California condor in its enclosure at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Click to view larger
A tagged California condor in its enclosure at the Santa Barbara Zoo. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Players will work to reintroduce the birds at locations where rehabilitation efforts have been organized, such as the Sespe Condor Sanctuary in Ventura County's Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur on the Central California Coast and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The game was developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Santa Barbara Zoo and Cerberus Interactive.

Proceeds from optional in-app purchases help the zoo’s education programs and conservation programs, Souza said.

The birds with the 10-foot wingspan almost went extinct.

The number of California condors dropped to just 22 birds in the wild by 1987.

In an effort to save them, the remaining members of the species were trapped and placed in zoos for breeding programs.

It took decades to restore the population and the numbers rose through captive breeding, Sandhaus said.

As a result, more than 400 birds are flying above Arizona, Utah, California and Mexico’s Baja California. 

Nearly half of that number of condors survive in the wild, wearing numbered identification tags so researchers can track their development.

Thousands of years ago, the birds dominated the coasts of North America, from British Columbia to Baja California.

By the 20th century, the bird was found only in Southern California, its numbers depleted by habitat destruction, poaching and lead poisoning. 

Lead poisoning has been the main cause of death for condors, Sandhaus said.

The ingestion of shotgun bullets while feeding on dead animals killed by game hunters resulted in a massive population decline.

“Lead poisoning still is the biggest mortality factor today in the flocks,” Sandhaus said. “It’s something we can change. It’s human caused and there are human solutions.”

Condor conservationists also pushed for a statewide ban on lead ammunition in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in 2013, prohibiting the use of lead ammunition in hunting.

Assembly Bill 711 was signed into law requiring the use of lead-free ammunition when hunting wildlife anywhere in California. 

This law was effective July 2015, and regulations phase-in the statute’s requirements, but it must be completely implemented by July 2019, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Sandhaus said partnering with the hunting community is important for success. 

“We are seeing a movement,” Sandhaus said. “Hunters are the original wildlife conservationist, and they also fund what conservationists stand for.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

‘Chuck the Condor,’ the mascot of the Los Angeles Clippers pro basketball team, was on hand Tuesday at the Santa Barbara Zoo to help launch ‘Condor Country,’ a new mobile game about endangered California condors. Click to view larger
‘Chuck the Condor,’ the mascot of the Los Angeles Clippers pro basketball team, was on hand Tuesday at the Santa Barbara Zoo to help launch ‘Condor Country,’ a new mobile game about endangered California condors.  (Santa Barbara Zoo photo)

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >