One of the main objectives in California Condor Recovery Plan is to “delist,” or take the species off of the endangered species list. In the case of the condor we are settling for “downlisting” it to threatened status, for starters. Our current estimate is around year 2020 to achieve this. The criteria we set is to
have three disjunct populations of at least 150 birds each for a total of 450. At that point, the species could be downlisted from Endangered to Threatened. This would be a welcome and significant milestone in the efforts to save California condors from extinction.
In their native ecosystem, condors occupy the niche of scavengers, and it is likely their original populations were never massive. The goal of 450 birds will include three distinct populations: one in California/Baja California, one in the southwestern United States (Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico), and one in captivity.
Maintaining separate populations creates a “safety net”—if one population were seriously impacted in any way, the species would not be completely wiped out. Also, by separating them we can better manage them genetically and demographically. Each population also needs to have at least 15 breeding pairs and a positive rate of population increase before downlisting should be considered.