The Condor’s Shadow

Written by Katherine Wang (Class of 2024)
Photos by Ms. Kravitz

Several hundred years ago, a huge shadow was cast over the landscape of the United States as the majestic condor soared over the mountains of the midwest, the valleys of California, and the forests and hills of Nevada. However, over the next few decades, the California condor population began decreasing steadily due to a number of factors including capturing and hunting, lead poisoning from bullets, and disturbance of their natural habitat. In the 1980s, with only 27 individuals alive in the world, a major California condor preservation project began with a captive breeding program, and in April 1987, the last wild condor was captured.

DVGS is proud to be the first recipient of the James E. Cook Nature’s Classroom Grant. Because of the generosity of the Western National Parks Association (WNPA), DVGS students will get hands-on experience in naturalist studies and conservation efforts. For one week in April, several DVGS students and their teacher, Ms. Kravitz, will be camping in Pinnacles National Park, a designated home for condors and many other species, to gain a better understanding of the conservation of endangered animals. To introduce this ongoing project to the school, they hosted the screening of a documentary called The Condor’s Shadow on March 10, 2023. This film told the story of a spirited condor named Pithasi and a biologist named Joseph Brandt, showcasing their teamwork and determination to reestablish the California condor population.

With the film screening being set during the lunch period, numerous students and teachers showed up, as well as most of the elementary school. As one of the students watching said, “I had never heard of the condor bird before, so it was really interesting to learn about them and see the efforts that are being made to bring them back into the wild.” When asked about the documentary, Ms. Kravitz, the teacher leading this effort, remarked that “A few of us heading to Pinnacles National Park just might be lucky enough to witness in person the extraordinary efforts of the California condor conservation movement. But even seeing the amazing birds in person doesn’t give an idea of the actual work that so many people have done over the last few decades to bring them back from near extinction. This movie is a powerful tool for all of us to understand what is the actual meaning of conservation. It is science, it is resourcefulness, it is community… and it takes a lot of grit.”

Look forward to more from the DVGS student Pinnacles team! They will be displaying their research on the national park’s animals and ecosystems at the ESLR Museum from April 7 to April 14.