The Peregrine Fund was founded in 1970 by Tom Cade, an ornithology professor at Cornell University, to save the peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus, which had nearly disappeared through the western United States, and reintroduce it back into the eastern United States. A captive breeding program including offspring reintroduction was initiated and was wildly successful. Consequently, the Peregrine Fund now can focus their energies towards saving other birds of prey species and has helped save ~100 raptor species (and also some non-raptors, like the critically endangered Madagascar pochard Aythya innotata). The Peregrine Fund run the World Center for Birds of Prey (WCBP), a breeding center and a zoo which only has birds of prey (much like the International Crane Foundation has a breeding center and zoo which specializes just on crane species) and breed large numbers of species like California condors Gymnogyps californianus, Aplomado falcons Falco femoralis, bald eagles Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Mauritius kestrels Falco punctatus, and many more.
One current captive breeding program at the Peregrine Fund is the California condor program. During 1982 there were only 22 California condors left. They brought all condors into captivity so an intensive captive breeding program could build their numbers, and there are now 369 California condors, including 192 wild birds. At 66 birds, the condor flock at the Peregrine Fund's WCBP releases the most condors into the wild (the Oregon Zoo, San Diego Zoo, and LA Zoo also breed condors through the program).
Over and above captive breeding raptors which will be released into the wild and wild raptor protection, the Peregrine Fund has an active research wing, especially concerning declining raptor populations. Their research into African fish eagle declines determine the best ways to focus conservation efforts to reverse declines before the situation reaches the point the California condor was at when the last few birds were brought into captivity.
Release of California condors into the wildThe Peregrine Fund's international field conservation projects are also very important. Over the past decade vulture populations over the Indian subcontinent have plummeted because a drug (diclofenac) which dying cattle are given poisons vultures when they eat the dead cattle (in particular Oriental white-backed or white-rumped vultures Gyps bengalensis, long-billed or Indian vultures Gyps indicus, and slender-billed vultures Gyps tenuirostris). The Peregrine Fund was vital in discovering the vulture population crash's source and subsequently getting the drug outlawed. Unfortunately, the population declines have continued, which suggests the drug is still used.
|African fish eagle Haliaeetus vocifer and steppe eagle Aquila nipalensis at Lake Bogoria, Kenya|
The Peregrine Fund's African fish eagle project
I have been incredibly fortunate and have seen wild California condors and African fish eagles. Unfortunately, most birds of prey species' populations are decreasing, some precipitously so, and if we don't act soon many species will not be around long. Do investigate the various ways you can help them: support them financially, volunteer at the WCBP or through their international projects, or install an American kestrel nestbox.
Interested in learning more about birds of prey? Check out the following links/books:
The Peregrine Fund has an online database with information concerning 333 species of raptors from around the world.
The Handbook of the Birds of the World: Volume 2 New World Vultures to Guineafowl. This volume covers the Falconiformes and the Galliformes. This set of books is the most complete source of information concerning every species of bird in the world.
Raptors of the World by James Ferguson-Lees and David Christie is an incredibly comprehensive collation of all of the raptors of the world. It comes in two forms: a small (320 pages) version that is essentially a field guide, and a larger (992 pages) version with everything you could ever want to know about each species. Be sure you are purchasing the one that you mean to get.