California condors are back soaring over the Redwood National Park in Northern California, more than 130 years after they were last spotted in the area.
On Tuesday, four condors bred in captivity were put in a staging area with a remote-controlled gate. After the gate was open, two of the condors took their time peering out before finally making their way through the opening and flying away. The other two will have another chance to take off in the near future, The Associated Press reports.
The California condor is a New World vulture and the largest North American bird. Starting in the mid-1800s, their numbers began to dwindle, largely due to the condors being shot for sport, the introduction of pesticides like DDT, and habitat destruction. When the wild population dropped to just 22 in the 1980s, biologists started captive-breeding programs at the Los Angeles and San Diego zoos. These programs are working; today, the Los Angeles Times reports, there are 300 wild California condors in the state.
California condors are social and learn from their elders, and while in captivity, the young birds were raised by an older condor. They will be monitored by experts to ensure they are adapting to the wild.
The birds were released at a facility within Yurok ancestral territory, and the tribe's wildlife coordinator, Tiana Williams-Clausen, said in a statement that the condor's reintroduction is part of an "obligation to bring balance to the world. We've been working toward these releases for 14 years. Now, the condor is coming home."