Now numbering just over 200 individuals in the wild, the critically endangered California condor remains a conservation success story after having been saved from the brink of extinction in 1985 when just nine birds remained. This past Tuesday, two examples of the largest bird species in North America were released back into the Northern California redwoods — a first in 130 years.

It wasn’t too long ago that the very fate of the California condor was in the hands of just a few mating pairs that were pulled from the wild back in the late 1980s. Over the following decades, those birds (and their offspring) have been able to bring back the rare bird species to 504 animals. As conservation and captive breeding efforts of California condor continue, more of the animals are returning to historic areas they once occupied before a deadly mix of poaching, human-caused deforestation, and the use of lead ammunition and DDT — the first of the modern synthetic insecticides that would later be found to cause fertility issues in bird species — took them away.

Case in point: The Yurok Tribe, in tandem with Redwood National and State Parks, reintroduced two of these birds to the Northern California redwoods last week as a result of a 15-year reintroduction project.

"For countless generations, the Yurok people have upheld a sacred responsibility to maintain balance in the natural world,” said Joseph L. James, chairman of the Yurok Tribe, said in a statement published by CNN. To keep the birds — which were hatched at the Oregon Zoo — safe and away from poachers, their exact reintroduction location is being kept secret. “Condor reintroduction is a real-life manifestation of our cultural commitment to restore and protect the planet for future generations.”

California condors have been out of Northern California's redwoods since 1892, according to a statement from the Yurok Tribe. According to the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), only around 200 adult California condors are left in the wild. The other 304 individuals that make up the current total population count are held inside various zoological institutions around the world. Of the wild animals, only 93 have produced offspring.

But, should the reintroduction of this pair prove successful, the Yurok Tribe is expected to release another two California condors in the area within the next year or two.

Related: Gang of Condors Invades California Woman's Deck [2021]

Photo: Getty Images/pjsells