Andean condors once ranged all along the Andes Mountains and Pacific coast of South America, from Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego.
From the beginning, the idea was to test methods on the relatively common Andean condors to learn how to manage and breed California condors in captivity.
For the next step, 11 Andean condors hatched at Patuxent and the Bronx and Miami zoos were sent to be released into the wild in 1980 on the Sechura Peninsula, a hot, dry, hilly desert running along Peru's northern coast.
Although four of the released Andean condors died in the first two years, the other seven birds not only survived, but thrived.
If we can get them to produce two eggs each next year (as has been done with Andean condors at Patuxent and other zoos), we could conceivably get 10 more chicks.
Even before the last wild California condor was taken into captivity in 1987, Wallace had suggested to the California condor recovery team -- a group of federal, state and zoo wildlife biologists who oversee the program -- that they release captive-hatched Andean condors to the wild in California.
First, though, any release of Andean condors in California had to be carefully planned.
To help allay opposition and to ensure that the Andean condors would not establish themselves in the United States, Wallace proposed releasing only females, feeding the birds at specific sites for easy recapture later and setting a definite two to three year time limit for the study.
In the end, eight Andean condors hatched in captivity in 1988 were slated for release in California.
The Andean condors were released from their cages and allowed to fly freely in December 1988 and January 1989.