A necropsy (animal autopsy) is the examination of an animal carcass in order to determine the cause and manner of death and to diagnosis and evaluate any disease or injury that may have contributed to its mortality. Necropsies are typically performed by a veterinarian that specializes in the specific species being examined.

Condors atop Chalone Lookout Tower Picture from National Park Service

Condors atop Chalone Lookout Tower Picture from National Park Service

In evaluating the California condor necropsy reports, Hunt for Truth scientists have found necropsies that improperly conclude that the cause of death is lead poisoning, when the actual cause of death was visceral gout due to the mis-application of chelation treatment. Additionally, data contained in the condor necropsy reports indicate high blood lead-levels, but very few birds showed any evidence of ingesting lead ammunition. Despite the lack of evidence pointing to lead ammunition, lead poisoning from ingesting lead ammunition was determined to be the cause of death. Clearly the Condor Recovery Program (CRP) is ignoring alternative sources of lead exposure to California condors.

One such noted exposure to an alternative source of lead in the environment was discovered at Pinnacles National Monument, where condors 317 and 318 (all birds are numbered by the CRP) were observed ingesting lead paint fragments from the North Chalone Fire Lookout Tower. In turn, these parents fed the regurgitated lead paint fragments to their fledgling (550). Condors 317, 318 and 550 were all tested and found to have high blood-lead levels, and 550 had to be evacuated to the Los Angeles Zoo for intense treatment for lead poisoning.

This highly soluble form of industrial lead can easily cause acute lead poisoning in condors. Other alternative sources of compounded lead that are highly soluble and bioavailable include leaded gasoline, pesticides, mining waste and microtrash. All of these alternative sources need to be investigated and evaluated in order to determine the true cause of lead poisoning in the California condor and to ensure their long term survival.