Conservationists rush to vaccinate California condors as avian flu strikes : NPR

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Conservationists are speeding to vaccinate critically endangered California condors versus deadly avian flu. Ashleigh Blackford of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Company is overseeing the hard work.



ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

There’s a vaccination hard work underway in California, not for COVID or the common flu. In truth, the people are not even human. They are some of the premier birds in the world – California condors. Ashleigh Blackford is the California condor coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and she is overseeing the hard work to vaccinate these endangered birds from the avian flu. Welcome to ALL Factors Viewed as.

ASHLEIGH BLACKFORD: Many thanks, Ari. It really is so great to be below.

SHAPIRO: How do you vaccinate a California condor? I am picturing people climbing up cliffs with syringes to obtain monumental nests. Like, how does this get the job done?

BLACKFORD: Well, wonderful question. And thankfully, that is not what we need to go by. Our California condor restoration software in fact has an intense monitoring effort of our wild birds, and that contains yearly trapping gatherings exactly where we do wellbeing checks on the birds. And so that will be our prime option to vaccinate for avian influenza, if we consider that next move.

SHAPIRO: And so are these birds just receiving vaccinated on their yearly checkups? Since there is true urgency here. I indicate, much more than a dozen have died due to the fact March. The condors are presently critically endangered. You are dealing with some time force.

BLACKFORD: We are. So – but initial, right before we start out vaccinating the wild condors, we are implementing a trial. And which is what USDA accredited, was for us to initiate a vaccination demo. 1st, we are commencing with surrogate birds, which are going to be black vultures. We want to make confident that this vaccine that was created for poultry is going to be secure for our wild birds. So we are tests it first in black vultures. And then we will vaccinate some of our captive birds as element of that trial as perfectly. And then when we’ve gone via that sort of basic safety trial, observing an immune response from our birds, then we are likely to flip and begin vaccinating the wild birds.

SHAPIRO: I feel quite a few people today are mindful of what a heroic and profitable exertion it was to deliver the California condor back again from the brink of extinction. Are you frightened that that progress could be undone by the avian flu right now?

BLACKFORD: I mean, this unquestionably feels like a setback, in unique for our southwest flock in Arizona. I indicate, they have lost just about 20% of their wild flock. I will say, however, thankfully, large image for this software, the approach all-around California condor recovery is that we have various populations on the landscape and that by undertaking that, you have what the Fish and Wildlife Company workers refer to as redundancy on the landscape. And by possessing these a number of populations, you make resiliency to stochastic events like this, like a virus outbreak.

SHAPIRO: We’re conversing about this legendary, majestic species that is critically endangered. But avian flu is influencing wild hen populations all more than the place. Is this just a microcosm of what the fowl inhabitants of the United States faces suitable now? I indicate, how serious is this outbreak?

BLACKFORD: Effectively, we are looking at this virus impact wild populations at a unparalleled stage. Why this individual pressure looks to be possessing such substantial mortality premiums and in all kinds of species, you know, we actually are unable to say. It can be just sort of the luck of virus evolution, I would say. But we have found these virus outbreaks just before. You know, early in the 2000s, West Nile came as a result of. And they are novel viruses that wild birds are not uncovered to. And so you can see these large spikes of mortality. And preferably, about time, we form of access an equilibrium with those viruses, and the birds obtain purely natural immunity, and they are able to rebound. It truly is populations like the California condor that are pretty small, that don’t have that sturdy populace – we just consider a genuinely big hit simply because we never have the depth of a populace to make it possible for for that purely natural immunity to make. And so that is genuinely 1 of the motives why we want to vaccinate – is because we do not have numbers that can maintain the time that it could possibly consider for these populations to obtain an immunity.

SHAPIRO: Wildlife biologist Ashleigh Blackford is the California condor coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Company. Thank you so substantially.

BLACKFORD: Thank you.

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