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LOS ANGELES, California, February 21, 2003 (ENS)

A poacher has shot and killed one of the last surviving California condors born in the wild.

Adult Condor 8 (AC-8) 8 was found dead on February 13 in a remote area of southern Kern County, California, and a necropsy determined that the bird died of gunshot. AC-8 was believed to be more than 30 years old. No arrests have been made, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the California Department of Fish and Game are investigating the shooting.

AC-8 was the last female condor captured in the 1980s for captive breeding programs, and one of the first of the original wild birds to be released in April 2000. She was considered a matriarch of the breeding program, spending 14 years in captivity where she produced 12 offspring.

"The death of this majestic bird is a great tragedy and a tremendous loss," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "While we have had great success in our condor recovery efforts to date, we cannot accept the needless loss of any of these great birds. We are actively pursuing a full investigation of this matter."

With the death of AC-8, just 79 birds remain in the wild. Another 118 are in captivity at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo.

"This unnecessary death at the hands of a poacher marks a sad day for California," said California Resources secretary Mary Nichols. "We have lost one of the last wild condors, but we remain committed to bringing back these magnificent birds from the edge of extinction. I call on the public to support us in that effort, and also help us find the poacher responsible for this senseless killing."

The California condor is listed as an endangered species and is protected by both federal and California law. Violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act carries a maximum penalty of one year confinement and a fine of $100,000. "We will not let the tragic death of AC-8 slow the forward momentum of condor recovery," said Marc Weitzel, project leader of the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex and the California Condor Recovery Program. "AC-8's legacy will carry on. Condors are exhibiting breeding behavior in the California and Arizona populations and we fully anticipate wild-born condors again in the near future."

Anyone with information regarding the shooting of AC-8 is encouraged to call the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement at 916-414-6664. The USFWS will pay a "substantial" reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved. The amount of the award will be determined by the value to the investigation of the information provided.

Posted 02/03


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