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      William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

John Moir

Return of the Condor

About the Author

John Moir is an award-winning author and science journalist whose special interest is the loss of biodiversity across the planet. He has covered the condor recovery effort for years for newspapers and magazines.

Moir has written on many topics and his articles have appeared in publications such as the Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle, Birder's World, Audubon California, and elsewhere. Moir works for the National Science Teachers Association as a staff writer and is also an independent science journalist. He is a member of the National Association of Science Writers, the Author's Guild, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Northern California Science Writers Association.

Moir is a member of the American Birding Association and has traveled the world in search of birds. He is also a docent naturalist at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.

About the Book

Return of the Condor is a riveting account of one of the most dramatic attempts to save a species from extinction in the history of modern conservation.

The California condor, North America’s largest bird, lives 50 years or more, is highly intelligent, often mates for life, can fly 150 miles in a day, and was believed by Native Americans to have supernatural powers. But its strength and endurance were not enough to save it from near-extinction. Human greed and ignorance caused the great bird’s decline. Human ingenuity and insight became its only hope.

Down to only twenty-two individuals in the 1980s, the condor owes its survival and recovery to a remarkable team of scientists who flouted conventional wisdom and pursued the most controversial means to save it. Conservationists and scientists have fought what at times has seemed a quixotic battle to save the species. Theirs is a story of passion, courage, and bitter controversy, one that created a national debate over how to save America’s largest bird.

Return of the Condor chronicles this epic story. We meet Jan Hamber, the biologist who made the agonizing decision to capture AC9, the young male who was the last living wild condor; Carl Koford, the brilliant scientist whose flawed conclusions delayed a captive-breeding program until it was almost too late; and two of the condors whose survival was critical, including AC9 himself. There is tragedy and triumph in their stories. Today, condors are more numerous and far easier to see than at any time in the past century, and their expanding territory is home to millions of Americans. For America’s 52 million birders and anyone who cares about saving our natural heritage, this inspiring story shows what happens when we commit ourselves to working with nature instead of against it.

Critics / Reviews

“Pulling the California condor back from the brink of extinction has been difficult and expensive. But this fine book by John Moir makes abundantly clear why preserving magnificent beings like our once-more wild condors is one of twenty-first-century society’s more important obligations.”
— Alan Tennant author of On The Wing: To The Edge Of The Earth With The Peregrine Falcon

"Audubon himself would be delighted to read John Moir's exciting and authoritative account of the difficult, politically fraught but ultimately rewarding effort to save the largest of all the living birds, a great shadow in the sky above the Western range. I certainly was."
— Richard Rhodes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of John James Audubon: The Making of an American

"By the 1980s, the California condor was well on its way to extinction. The saga of this magnificent bird, which had soared above the North American continent at a time when mastodons and saber-toothed cats still roamed the Earth, seemed to be nearing the end. The only thing standing in the way of this grim fate was the dedication of a small group of researchers and naturalists, committed to saving the condor. With eloquence and insight, John Moir chronicles the effort to save this spectacular bird. His book is a remarkable teJuly 17, 2008quot;
— Tim Gallagher, Director of Publications, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

"Return of the Condor is an account of cutting-edge conservation biology, but it is also an eminently human story. John Moir’s focus is on the problematic intersection between science and scientists, between bird lovers and the great bird itself. The subject matter—complex and controversial, ultimately heartwarming—demands a skilled and sympathetic writer, and Moir’s chronicle is thoroughly successful in this regard."
— Ted Floyd, editor of Birding Magazine, American Birding Association

"John Moir’s dramatic account of bringing the condor back from the brink of extinction is a reminder of the fragility of life on our planet and of the capacity of one species, humans, to protect or extinguish all others. Return of the Condor is a powerful tribute to the scientists, politicians, hunters, environmentalists, and concerned citizens who ultimately found a way to work together to ensure the survival of one of the most remarkable species on Earth."
— Mark Schaefer, CEO, Global Environment and Technology Foundation

"A heart-stopping saga of the rescue from the very brink of extinction of one of the grandest of all birds. Starting with page one, I was captured by Return of the Condor. America is the richer for the success of those who fought against all odds . . . and this tale is one all should read."
— Thomas Lovejoy, President, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment

"John Moir has written an uplifting and well-researched tale that takes us on the condor's roller-coaster ride to recovery. Equally exhilarating and
heart-breaking, this important story brings complex issues into clear focus and lets us understand—with both heart and mind—why we need to save this intelligent and majestic bird."--Maria Mudd Ruth, author of Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet
“Moir deftly chronicles the efforts of the dedicated biologists…who work to save the California condor from extinction.”
Publishers Weekly

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