Paul D. Thacker in Environmental Science and Technology:
Many California condors have extremely high concentrations of lead and must occasionally be caught to undergo chelation therapy to remove the heavy metal from their blood. But for the past 22 years, scientists and hunting activists have argued over how this endangered species is being poisoned. Now, research posted today on ES&T’s Research ASAP website (DOI: 10.1021/es060765s) finds that hunting ammunition is the cause of lead poisoning in condors. The results may spur state regulations that force hunters to use nonlead ammunition in the condor range.
Don Smith, a professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and corresponding author of the study, says that years of anecdotal evidence have pointed to hunting ammunition as the source of lead in condors, but scientists lacked hard data.
“These results are a no-brainer,” he says. “The problem is that the people who need to be convinced to take action have not been convinced,” he says, referring to politicians and special interest groups that fight attempts to regulate lead ammunition.