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New benchmark for endangered condor

By Scott Thompson, CNN
  • 100 California condors are now flying in California
  • That's up from just 22 in 1982
  • Scientists praise the success of their captive breeding program

(CNN) -- Biologists in California are celebrating a benchmark in the recovery of an iconic North American bird.

There are now 100 California condors flying high across the state, the largest number of endangered condors in California in the last half-century.

"This achievement is a testament to the work of our biologists in the field and the efforts of our public and private Recovery Program partners," California Condor Recovery Program Coordinator Jesse Grantham said in a statement Wednesday.

Captive-bred year-old California condors are released into the wild each fall from sites at Pinnacles National Monument in Central California and Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge on the southwest side of the San Joaquin Valley in Southern California.

The population of California condors had dropped to 22 in 1982. In an effort to save the species, a captive breeding program began at the Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

The recovery program eventually expanded to other facilities in other states.

Today, the total world population of California condors stands at 381. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists plan to release seven more California condor juveniles over the course of the next two and a half months.