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California condors take flight in Redwood National Park

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Yurok Tribe

A pair of California condors were released into Redwood National Park Tuesday, returning to Northern California for the first time in over 100 years.

Northern California’s Yurok Tribe has spent decades working to bring California condors back to their tribal lands. The birds were nearly driven extinct by habitat destruction and the introduction of toxic substances like DDT and lead.

Tiana Williams-Claussen is the director of the Yurok Tribe's wildlife department. She whispered just outside the enclosure as the two birds took off.

“That was just as exciting as I thought it was going to be," she says. "Those guys just took right off.”

The tribe released two of the four condors in their care, and the others will likely join them next month.

“This is just incredible, exciting times," Williams-Claussen says. "This has literally been my life’s work.”

Several of the condors in the program were raised at the Oregon Zoo as part of its condor recovery efforts. The other two birds came from a recovery center in Idaho.

The birds play an important role as large animal scavengers and are sacred figures in Yurok culture.

Williams-Claussen named the birds in the Yurok language; Poy'-we-son, that translates to “the one who goes ahead” and the other, Nes-kwe-chokw', or “he returns.” The tribe will monitor the birds around the clock as they get settled into their new environment.

The release of these condors marks the beginning of the tribe's goals to bring a sustainable flock back to the region. Williams-Claussen says they’ll be releasing four to six condors every year for the next twenty years.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.