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Lead in Ammunition: A Persistent Threat to Health and Conservation

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Abstract

Many scavenging bird populations have experienced abrupt declines across the globe, and intensive recovery activities have been necessary to sustain several species, including the critically endangered California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). Exposure to lead from lead-based ammunition is widespread in condors and lead toxicosis presents an immediate threat to condor recovery, accounting for the highest proportion of adult mortality. Lead contamination of carcasses across the landscape remains a serious threat to the health and sustainability of scavenging birds, and here we summarize recent evidence for exposure to lead-based ammunition and health implications across many species. California condors and other scavenging species are sensitive indicators of the occurrence of lead contaminated carcasses in the environment. Transdisciplinary science-based approaches have been critical to managing lead exposure in California condors and paving the way for use of non-lead ammunition in California. Similar transdisciplinary approaches are now needed to translate the science informing on this issue and establish education and outreach efforts that focus on concerns brought forth by key stakeholders.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the editor for inviting this review. We acknowledge the Condor Recovery Team and the many agencies, organizations, and individuals who have dedicated their time to recovery of this species. We also thank Eric Loft, Steve Torres, Jesse Grantham, Walter Boyce, Robert Poppenga, and Tamara Vodovoz for their contributions to this work. Views presented by the coauthors do not necessarily represent the views of the Condor Recovery Program or US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Correspondence to C. K. Johnson.

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C. K. Johnson and T. R. Kelly contributed equally to this work.

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Johnson, C.K., Kelly, T.R. & Rideout, B.A. Lead in Ammunition: A Persistent Threat to Health and Conservation. EcoHealth 10, 455–464 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-013-0896-5

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