- WILDLIFE AND
California – In a newly released study, researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), by entitled claim that condors are being exposed to harmful levels of lead from hunters’ ammunition, which is preventing the full recovery of the condor species. This new study is a follow up on the findings of a previous paper also published by UCSC researchers. (Church, et al.)
In the new paper (“Lead Poisoning and the Deceptive Recovery of the Critically Endangered California Condor.”) researchers Myra Finkelstein and Donald Smith, et al., analyzed lead ammunition and lead levels in the blood of condors in an effort to identify the source of the lead exposure.
But UCSC researchers use a discredited methodology to determine isotopic ratios to “fingerprint” a lead source.
In trying to “fingerprint” the source of the lead exposure in condors, researchers used a technique called “isotopic compositional analysis.” Isotopic compositional analysis compares the isotopic composition of lead found in the blood of captive condors and blood-lead in free-flying condors, to the isotopic composition of lead in hunters’ ammunition, and to lead in the background environment in California.
But Drs. Don Saba and Rick Randich thoroughly debunked this misuse of isotopic ratio analysis to draw these types of conclusions when it was misused in the Church Study. Saba and Randich showed that, contrary to the claims of the UCSC researchers, isotopic ratios lack the specificity required to trace blood-lead levels in condors to a specific source of lead.
Dr. Randich specialized in forensic metallurgy, failure analysis and advanced materials. Dr. Randich is famous for demonstrating that the Compositional Analysis of Bullet Lead technique previously used by the FBI Crime Lab was inherently flawed and could not be used for tracing bullets (found at Crime Sciences) to specific boxes of ammunition. The FBI abandoned this methodology.
Now the UCSC researchers are again using the discredited isotopic compositional analysis methodology to claim that the isotopic ratios of lead from the captive condors fall within the range of background environmental lead in California, while free-flying condors had isotopic ratios of lead that more closely matched hunters’ lead ammunition. And in a major logical disconnect, the UCSC researchers claim that condors will not survive unless lead ammunition is completely eradicated from condor habitat.
Ironically, the UCSC researchers admit that the lead ammunition ban in the condor’s range since July 2008 has had no effect on reducing condor blood-lead levels. In fact, although the California Department of Fish and Game has confirmed that there has been a 99% compliance rate with the lead ammunition ban by hunters, wild condor blood-lead levels remain static, and have even slightly increased since the lead ban went into effect in 2008. Notwithstanding this lack of a relationship between the lead ban and the condor blood-lead levels, the UCSC authors insist that their lead isotopic analysis proves that the condor lead exposure is due to hunters’ lead ammunition.
But clearly, this disparity indicates that there is an alternative source of lead in the environment that is causing the problem. And in fact the authors have acknowledged the existence of other plausible sources of lead in the environment, including the presence of lead paint fragments from weathered paint on structures in the condor foraging range.
The two primary authors of the current study are both fully aware that alternative sources of lead exist in the condors’ environment. They both previously published a paper discussing the lead poisoning of birds on Midway Island caused by the ingestion of paint fragments containing lead. Additionally, Dr. Smith has previously published a paper demonstrating lead poisoning in children from leaded paint using the isotopic ratio analysis.
Nonetheless, in the most recent paper Drs. Finkelstein and Smith contradict their own findings in previous studies, and disregard leaded paint as a potential source, even while acknowledging clear evidence of actual incidents where condors have been poisoned from ingesting leaded paints.
To combat the misguided efforts by environmental activists and researchers seeking to infringe on hunting regulations, the NRA and California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation (CRPAF) have collected thousands of documents via public records act requests over the last several years on the use of lead ammunition. Many of these documents raise serious doubts about the veracity of claims that lead ammunition is poisoning California condors, wildlife or humans. In fact, many documents indicate these claims are based on “faulty science,” and the NRA and CRPAF have used these documents to debunk the “faulty science” being proffered to implement various lead ammunition bans across the U.S. The NRA’s efforts are critical in defending the status quo for hunters and recreational shooters nationwide. For more information regarding lead ammunition, join the Hunt for Truth.
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