The $25 Million Bird

As endangered California condors return to the wild, the law that saved them is under attack

Framed by snow-capped mountains and an ice-blue sky, a 10-kg (22-lb.) adolescent California condor named Chocuyens poked his head out of a man-made nest on a rocky promontory in Southern California's Los Padres National Forest last week. With that timid move, he became the first member of his endangered species to return from captivity to the wild. Minutes later, his nestmate Xewe and two young Andean condors sent along as companions emerged. The birds jumped up and down and flapped their immense wings in an apparent preflight dance while jubilant naturalists watching from distant cliffs poured champagne.

Xewe and Chocuyens, direct...

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