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USDA Scientists Collaborate to Protect Endangered Species for Extinction

Posted by APHIS Public Affairs in Animals
Mar 21, 2024
California Condor

As the majestic California Condor soars high in the western skies, the largest bird in North America inspires those who knows its near-tragic history. On the verge of extinction in the 1980s, this resilient avian managed to survive. However, it recently faced a new threat to its existence – highly pathogenic avian influenza. The USDA recently took steps to save this beautiful creature, ensuring Americans will have the opportunity to witness the glory of the California Condor, hopefully inspiring future generations to recognize their unlimited potential to overcome adversity.

Collaboration within and outside of the USDA is one of the many ways we provide leadership on food, agriculture, and natural resources. Two USDA agencies, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS), recently partnered with other Federal agencies to protect the endangered California Condor from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

HPAI is an extremely contagious disease that is deadly to domestic poultry. It affects many different species of birds and spreads quickly in wild bird populations. Condors are particularly at risk for HPAI because they eat the decaying flesh of dead animals. As part of our vision to preserve our Nation's natural resources, the USDA identified ways to address the risk HPAI presented to the endangered California Condor.

APHIS and ARS partnered together in The California Condor Vaccination Project, a collaborative effort across the government and private organizations to protect the condors. The Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) will present awards to employees from both agencies in April.

California Condors are the largest bird in North America. In the 1980s, their population was almost extinct with only 22 birds remaining. Even after the recovery effort, there are fewer than 500 California Condors in North America.

Within APHIS, veterinarians and scientists utilized their experience combatting HPAI to collaborate with ARS scientists who work with HPAI vaccines as part of their research projects. These USDA agencies worked together with additional partners to conduct vaccine trials and, once it was determined to be safe, began vaccinating the endangered condors.

Protecting the endangered California Condor is one of the countless ways the “People’s Department” works tirelessly to serve Americans throughout the nation. The FLC Interagency Partnership Award recognizes the outstanding work of Drs. David White, Shanna Siegel, and Mary Donahue in applying modern vaccine technology to protect the endangered California Condors from a devastating disease.

Category/Topic: Animals