On Thursday March 2nd, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke repealed a ban on using lead ammunition for hunting in areas under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service including wildlife refuges. The ban was put in place to prevent lead poisoning of animals, plants, and humans. There is significant fragmentation in used lead rounds that can potentially contaminate the ground and water. In addition, large birds of prey can accumulate lead when they regularly feed on carrion. Lead toxicity has been shown in humans to cause heart attacks, strokes, and brain damage. Proponents of lead bullets claim that lead-free bullets are more expensive and that lead bullets do not cause substantial harm to wildlife. Environmentalists claim that lead bullets put threatened species such as the California condor at risk, and that there are plenty of types of lead-free ammunition on the market that studies have shown perform and cost the same as lead bullets. To save the condor, the state of California is implementing their own lead ammunition ban which will phase out lead bullets entirely by 2019. Here is a petition asking for Secretary Zinke to reinstate the national ban.
This week we donated to the Ventana Wildlife Society, which we were introduced to through the Oakland Zoo’s California Condor Conservation Program. Not only does the Oakland Zoo supply veterinary care to injured condors, it also provides outreach to local students, connecting them with field biologists and teaching them how to use GIS mapping to analyze conservation challenges. In 1987, there was only a single wild California condor left, so it was taken into captivity to join the last 26 remaining condors to increase the population through a captive breeding program. The breeding was successful and in 1992 the participating zoos began reintroducing the condors into the wild. This reintroduction was also successful, and the population in the wild is now approaching a small but vastly improved 240 birds. The Ventana Wildlife Society, the Oakland Zoo, the aforementioned Fish and Wildlife Service, and other program partners re-established, monitor, and manage this once again wild condor population.
We see absolutely no reason that the ban of lead bullets should be repealed. There are a variety of lead-free bullets on the market and the consequences of using lead bullets are so detrimental to wildlife. The California condor is a thriving, inspiring example of what can happen when we humans band together and use our resources to help wildlife. In the face of looming extinction, the California condor rallied and is now soaring through the open skies. Lead bullets put progress like this at risk—not only harming animals, but harming humans, too. Our natural environment shows, time and time again, how we are all connected: humans, animals, plants, the water and the earth. If we pollute the environment, we will eventually poison ourselves as well. When we protect the environment, we are investing in our health and our future.