California Condor Conservation

Condor Chick Hatches in Mexican Wilderness

Posted at 4:02 pm June 18, 2009 by Yadira Galindo

     The California Condor Recovery Program reached a new milestone with the hatching of a condor chick in the Sierra San Pedro de Mártir National Park in Baja California, Mexico. San Diego Zoo field biologists rappelled 330 feet down a rocky cliff on Tuesday to vaccinate the chick against West Nile Virus.
web_wallace_chick061609.jpg     Mike Wallace, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo‘s Institute for Conservation Research wildlife scientist and California Condor Recovery Program team leader, said the chick is approximately 45 days old.
“Our efforts to save this species are long and often arduous,” said Wallace. “Still, nothing is more rewarding than the arrival of a chick from reintroduced birds breeding in the wild. The 45-day-old chick is the most successful effort by our growing population in Baja California so far.”
The chick is only the second California condor to hatch in Mexico since the San Diego Zoo reintroduced this critically endangered species to the area in 2002. A different condor breeding pair hatched the first chick in 2007, but the chick disappeared from the nest one month later and was never found. californiacondorchick_mx_0609.jpg
“This is an example of collaboration between Mexico and the United States to conserve biological diversity along the border region between our two countries,” said Eduardo Peters, Ph.D., Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Ecología director general of research of ecology and conservation of ecosystems. “The Instituto Nacional de Ecología has been persistent in continuing the project in Mexico by coordinating the Mexican institutions participating in this binational effort. The goal is to create a self-sustaining California condor population and thus repopulating their historic range.”
Prior to the 2002 reintroduction of this species, the last documented wild California condor in Mexico was spotted in the late 1930s. The California Condor
Recovery Program joined forces with the Mexican government to reintroduce this species to its native habitat in the pristine mountain range.
Condors reach breeding age at 5 years old. The condors in Baja California are just reaching maturity. Wallace believes additional pairs may begin to breed and lay eggs in 2010. An egg hatches after 57 days of incubation. The emerging chick is born with light gray feathers and a pink bald head. Its feathers begin to darken as it ages and by 6 months old when it takes its first flight, it is fully grown with black and white feathers and a black head. The chick remains under the watchful eye of its parents for another two years. When it reaches maturity the birds head turns pink once again.
The California Condor Recovery Program is implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, zoos in the U.S. and Mexico, as well as U.S. and Mexican government agencies such as the Instituto Nacional de Ecología and non-governmental organizations including WiLDCOAST. The world population of California condors is now approximately 350 birds, more than half of which are flying free in the skies above California, Arizona and Baja California, Mexico. Although listed by the federal government as an endangered species in 1967, the California condor population continued to decline reaching a critical low of less than two dozen birds and in 1982 the condor breeding program was successfully established at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park and Los Angeles Zoo. Today, two additional breeding centers are assisting with the recovery of the species at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey and the Oregon Zoo.
The 100-acre San Diego Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of endangered species and their habitats. The organization focuses on conservation and research work around the globe, educates millions of individuals a year about wildlife and maintains accredited horticultural, animal, library and photo collections. The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, which includes a 900-acre native species reserve, and the San Diego Zoos Institute for Conservation Research™. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

Gunshot & Lead-Poisoned California Condor Recovers and Returns to Wild

Posted at 1:57 pm May 6, 2009 by admin

Big Sur, California – Biologists at the Ventana Wildlife Society released condor No. 375 on Friday, May 1 from its condor sanctuary in Big Sur, California. This release marks the return of one of two condors that were gunshot and lead-poisoned this past March.

“We are extremely pleased to see condor No. 375 flying free in Big Sur once again because that’s where she belongs,” said Joe Burnett, Ventana Wildlife Society senior wildlife biologist.

Condor 375 was monitored over the weekend and she has been doing well since her release.  The 4-year old juvenile female, was trapped by Ventana Wildlife Society biologists in Big Sur on March 26 for a routine blood-lead test. Biologists soon learned she had a very high lead value and was suffering from lead poisoning.

The ailing condor was transferred to the Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic in Monterey to undergo a medical exam by veterinarian, Amy Wells, DVM.   X-rays taken by Wells revealed three shotgun pellets embedded in her tissue, two in the wing and one in the thigh.  This was an unexpected discovery which was unrelated to condor 375′s lead poisoning condition.

Condor 375 was given medicine to counteract the lead poisoning and then immediately transferred from Monterey to the Los Angeles Zoo for recovery. During her treatment it was determined that the gunshot wounds would not cause her any long-term physical impairment and her lead levels were brought down successfully after three weeks on a vigorous treatment schedule of once daily injections that removed lead from her bloodstream.

Condor No. 286, the other gunshot and lead-poisoned condor, is still recovering at the Los Angeles Zoo from his severe exposure to lead and his condition is still very much “critical.”   Condor 286, an adult male, was captured in early March by biologists with Ventana Wildlife Society when it was determined that he was suffering from a severe case of lead-poisoning.  He was transferred to undergo treatment at the Zoo’s animal hospital.  When radio-graphed by veterinary staff they discovered 15 shotgun pellets lodged in his wing and body, also unrelated to the lead-poisoning condition.

“Luckily, the pellets didn’t cause any long-term physical impairment to condor 286, but his battle with lead poisoning is far from over,” said Burnett. “We are still unsure whether he will ever return to the wild and reunite with his mate (condor No. 303), as his survival is in the balance.”

As a result of these two condor shootings, a $40,000 reward was assembled thanks to Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society of the United States and Ventana Wildlife Society donors.

“We don’t yet know what leads, if any, have been generated from this reward so far but we certainly hope that the person or persons responsible are caught and punished accordingly,” said Kelly Sorenson, Ventana Wildlife Society executive director.

The endangered California condor is the largest land bird in North America, weighing as much as 25 pounds and possessing a nine and half foot wingspan. California condors do not kill their food; they are obligate scavengers, eating carcasses they find during long soaring flights.  Condor’s are nature’s recyclers and play a very important role in keeping the environment free of diseased animal carrion.

Condors are often poisoned when they ingest lead bullet fragments left behind in gunshot carcasses and gut piles in the field.  In July 2008, California changed hunting regulations to require hunters in the condor’s range to use only non-lead ammunition.  Information on the new regulations can be found on the California Department of Fish and Game’s Web site at:  http://ent.groundspring.org/EmailNow/pub.php?module=URLTracker&cmd=track&j=275249513&u=2988305

Biologists have been working for decades to reestablish California condors to the wild. From a population low of just 22 condors in 1982, there are now 322 of these critically endangered birds. About half are flying free in the wilds of California, Arizona, Utah, and Baja Mexico. Although the population has grown, the species remains endangered primarily due to preventable threats. Direct shooting of condors is one such threat.

Ventana Wildlife Society is the only non-profit organization releasing and monitoring California condors in California.  Ventana Wildlife Society began condor releases in Big Sur in 1997 and then initiated a second release site in 2003 at Pinnacles National Monument in collaboration with the National Parks Service.   Currently, Ventana Wildlife Society and the National Parks Service monitor a flock of 48 wild condors in Central California, more than half the population for California, which is currently 86 birds.

California Trails Opens at Santa Barbara Zoo

Posted at 1:41 pm May 6, 2009 by admin

By Alan Varsik, Assistant Zoo Director

I’ve waited for this day for a long time: I am elated to report that California condors are now on view at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

California Trails is the largest project in the Zoo’s nearly 50-year history. We reconfigured an entire section of the Zoo to feature endangered or threatened species from right here in our own backyard including four juvenile condors.

block-grantham-varsik-at-dedication-copy.jpgOn Wednesday, Aprill 22, our partners and collaborators gathered to cut the ribbon and formally open the exhibit. We had members of the California Condor Recovery Program, including the coordinator, Jesse Grantham, representatives from the San Ynez Tribe of the Mission Indians (Chumash), plus state, county and city officials. Several volunteers from our nest monitoring program with the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service were there. Friends of the California Condor Flying Free attended in their blue tee-shirts. Longtime supporters of both the Zoo and of the condor program talked about what a great day it was.

cutting-the-ribbon-copy.jpgYou couldn’t miss the condors: all four were sitting on a central perch in the exhibit, basking in the sunshine, often extending their wings.

“Back in the early days of the recovery, in the 1980s, if you had told me we would be here today opening this exhibit – I wouldn’t have believed it!” said Jesse in his remarks to the crowd. “The trajectory here is an upward curve. We’re not going to lose the condor.”

I recalled how I saw condors in the wild while I was a student at Cal Poly – and how that experience, seeing condors in person, changed my life. I think that experience  helped direct the course of my life.

Now, more than ever, it is important for young people to make that connection. That is one of the reasons we built California Trails. We want our community and visitors to  see the magnificent birds, brought back from the brink of extinction, and discover that they too can make a difference in the natural world. That they are the stewards of the future.

On Saturday, I came to the public opening to see how the public reacted to the exhibits. We have “Passport” stations where kids learn about the birds (and the other animals of California Trails) and learn about them and their challenges in the wild. The kids were fascinated by the collection of microtrash we have on display, which was collected by zoo staff on a clean-up day in the Sespe. I hope they’ll make the connection between not littering and helping condors.

It’s been great observing guests who see the birds they’ve heard about for so long, for the first time. Many people simply stop in their tracks when first seeing the birds.  It seems as if the condors significantly capture the attention of our guests for unusual amounts of time. Last Friday I noticed one gentleman first thing in morning at the exhibit. He was still there at the end of the day. I mentioned to him that I saw him in the morning and he explained that he couldn’t stop watching the birds. It’s been said that condors are like glue. That once you experience them, they stay with you. I hope that many of our guests have that experience.

As for the condors themselves, I couldn’t be happier with how comfortable they appear in their new home. They take advantage of all the various activities and perching opportunities. They’ve been digging and wading into the water. They have even done some landscaping, picking the flowers.

The privilege of sharing the story of California condor with our zoo guests is unparalleled. It signifies the essence of the role of the modern zoo, to connect, and to inspire.

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California Condor Nest Discovered in Mexico

Posted at 12:09 pm April 18, 2009 by Yadira Galindo

Second Nest Suspected in Sierra San Pedro de Martir

juanvargasdescends_040809.jpgWearing a backpack filled with candling equipment and a harness, Juan Vargas, San Diego Zoo field biologist, rappelled 330 feet down a rocky cliff on the hunt for a rare and precious egg in Mexico’s wilderness.

On Wednesday, April 8, Vargas braved the heights and found the precious egg nestled in a cavity in the Sierra San Pedro de Martir National Park in Baja California, Mexico. It is only the third egg to be laid by a California condor in condoregginnest040809.jpgMexico since the San Diego Zoo reintroduced this critically endangered species to the area in 2002.

Documenting the egg search from another cliff, Mike Wallace, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research scientist and California Condor Recovery Program team leader, said this condor pair laid an egg in the same nest in 2008, but the egg did not hatch.
condor284atentry_040809.jpg     “We suspected condor No. 284 laid an egg when she and her partner began making frequent trips to the area of the cave,” said Wallace. “We were excited when it was confirmed that the egg was fertile and may hatch in a couple of weeks.

The first condor pair, No. 261 and 217, to lay an egg in Mexico is also suspected of having an egg. If confirmed, this would be a historic event for conservation efforts. Prior to the 2002 reintroduction of this bird the last documented wild California condor in Mexico was spotted in the late 1930s. The California Condor Recovery Program joined forces with the Mexican government to reintroduce this species to its native habitat in the pristine mountain range where 15 condors now fly free.

The pair’s first egg was laid in 2007, but the chick disappeared from the nest one month later and was never found.

Condors reach breeding age at 5 years old. The condors in Baja California are just reaching maturity. Wallace believes additional pairs may begin to breed and lay eggs in 2010. An egg hatches after 57 days of incubation. A chick takes its first flight at approximately 6 months old, but it remains under the watchful eye of its parents for another two years.

The California Condor Recovery Program is implemented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, zoos in the U.S. and Mexico, as well as U.S. and Mexican government agencies such as the Instituto Nacional de Ecología and NGOs. The world population of California condors is now more than 320 birds, half of which are flying free in the skies above California, Arizona and Baja California, Mexico. The condor breeding centers include the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo, The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey and Oregon Zoo.

The 100-acre San Diego Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of endangered species and their habitats. The organization focuses on conservation and research work around the globe, educates millions of individuals a year about wildlife and maintains accredited horticultural, animal, library and photo collections. The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, which includes a 900-acre native species reserve, and the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

Oregon Zoo Celebrates Hatching of Its First Spring Condor

Posted at 12:17 pm April 17, 2009 by admin

New condor chick brings species closer to recovery

041709_condoradult2.jpgPORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Zoo’s festive eggs are filled with something much more than Cadbury Creme this year – they’re filled with fledgling California condors!

The first condor chick of 2009 pecked through its shell the morning of April 14, signaling the start of another remarkable hatching season at the Zoo’s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation. The chick is the offspring of Ojai and Atishwin and was hatched under the care of its foster parents, the male condor No. 189 and the female Squapuni.

“Each new hatch brings us one step closer to species recovery,” said Shawn St. Michael, Oregon Zoo condor curator. “Our program is relatively new, but growing in strength each year.”

Seven condor pairs produced eggs this year, and six of the eggs have proved fertile. The Zoo’s condor facility is currently home to 31 condors, not counting the new arrival, and has produced 19 fertile eggs since it was established in 2001. Of the 16 eggs already hatched, 15 chicks have survived.

Condors are the largest land birds in North America with wingspans of up to 10 feet and weight of 18 to 30 pounds. They are highly intelligent and inquisitive – and highly endangered.

041709_condoradult.jpgThe birds depend on their intelligence for survival and require a tremendous amount of parental investment in the wild. This is one of the reasons they have such a low productivity rate.

Normally, condors only lay a single egg every other year, but at the breeding centers this process can be sped up. If the egg is moved from the nest to an incubator for hatching, female condors will usually lay a second egg and sometimes a third. This procedure is known as double- or triple-clutching, and has dramatically increased condor numbers since the breeding program began.

These magnificent birds have a long history in Oregon, where archaeologists have unearthed 9,000-year-old condor bones from Native American middens. Condors were a common motif for the designs of Oregon’s Wasco people, who lived along the Columbia River between The Dalles and Cascade Locks. The condor was considered a guide to the native peoples and a key character in many myths.

The last condor seen in Oregon was near the town of Drain in 1904. Condors held out a little longer in California, but by 1987, only 17 remained in the wild. In an attempt to save the species, biologists decided to place the remaining condors in a breeding program. The California condor was one of the original animals included on the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Today, there are nearly 300 California condors counting those in captivity and in the wild.

The Oregon Zoo’s condor recovery efforts take place at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, located in rural Clackamas County on Metro-owned open land. The remoteness of the facility minimizes the exposure of young condors to people, increasing the chances for zoo-hatched birds to survive and breed in the wild.

In 2001, the Oregon Zoo became the third zoo in the nation to join the California Condor Recovery Program. California condor breeding programs are also operated at San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo and The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey. The Oregon Zoo received The Wildlife Society’s conservation award in 2005 for “creating the nation’s fourth California condor breeding facility.”

For more information about the Oregon Zoo’s California condors, visit www.oregonzoo.org/Condors/index.htm.

The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Washington’s pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot butterflies, western pond turtles, and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.

The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Zoo visitors are encouraged to ride MAX or take TriMet bus No. 63. Visitors who take the bus or MAX receive $1 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.

General admission is $9.75 (12-64), seniors $8.25 (65+), children $6.75 (3-11), and infants 2 and under are free; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $2 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.

Contacts: Bill LaMarche 503-220-2448 (office) or 503-497-5812 (pager)
Linda D’Ae-Smith 503-220-5716 (office) or 503-441-7573 (pager)

San Diego Condor Breeding Program to Reach Milestone

Posted at 11:49 am April 1, 2009 by Yadira Galindo

FIRST CHICKS OF 2009 SEASON HATCH AT THE WILD ANIMAL PARK

SAN DIEGO – Beginning March 27, two California condor chicks hatched over the past few days and a third chick was beginning to emerge Wednesday at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. The fourth chick to hatch will be the 150th California condor produced since the Wild Animal Park began breeding this critically endangered species 27 years ago.

At least seven chicks are expected to hatch in the next few of months. The first egg laid by a condor pair at the Park is artificially incubated. Condor keepers serve as foster parents using a condor puppet to raise the chicks. The parents then lay a second egg and raise that chick themselves.

This process has led to a very successful breeding and release program. The California condor was near extinction in the 1980s when the world population of this species hit a low of 22 individuals. All of the birds were placed into a breeding program that included the Wild Animal Park. Thanks to a multi-agency effort, today the condor population includes more than 320 birds; more than half of them have been released back into the California, Arizona and Mexico wilderness.

A new zip-line experience at the Park, Flightline, opens in April with one-third of profits directly benefiting the San Diego Zoo’s work saving the California condor. Flightline will take guests on a ride for 2/3 of a mile at 400 feet above Asian and African animal exhibits, allowing adventurers to mimic the experience of a bird in flight.

The California Condor Recovery Program is built upon a foundation of private and public partnerships. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service implements the recovery program in partnership with other U.S. and Mexican government agencies, the San Diego Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, The Peregrine Fund, Oregon Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Ventana Wilderness Society, among others.

The 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park is operated by the not-for-profit San Diego Zoo and includes a 900-acre native species reserve. The San Diego Zoo focuses on the conservation of endangered species and their habitats, engages in conservation and research work around the globe, educates millions of individuals a year about wildlife, and maintains accredited horticultural, animal, library and photo collections. The Zoo also manages the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

CONTACT: 619-685-3291
WEB SITE: http://www.sandiegozoo.org

Endangered California Condor Fighting for its Life

Posted at 5:06 pm March 13, 2009 by admin

Lead Poisoned and Gunshot:
Central Coast Condor Emblematic of Current Impediments to Recovery

March 13, 2009
Although they are one of the most endangered birds on the planet, California condors are still facing avoidable threats to their survival.  As a case in point, as one California condor began emergency treatment for lead poisoning, it was discovered the bird also had shotgun pellets embedded in his body from a gunshot wound.  Currently, the bird is fighting for his life at the Los Angeles Zoo.

During the week of January 21, condor No. 286 (all California condors are assigned a studbook number), a nearly 7-year-old male, went from being high in the pecking order of the central California coast condor flock to getting pushed around by much younger, less dominant birds.  When 286 went from making courtship displays to female condors to getting beat up by adolescent birds, wildlife biologists from Pinnacles National Monument and Ventana Wildlife Society knew something wasn’t right. A sudden shift in behavior by 286 was an indication the bird may have health problems.

“We had been trying to capture him since late January because of signs of weakness and poor health,” said Joe Burnett Ventana Wildlife Society biologist. Upon capture on March 4, biologists noted the condor was wobbly on his feet.  Testing revealed a high lead level in his blood, indicating potentially fatal lead exposure.  Condor biologists immediately transferred the bird to the Los Angeles Zoo for lead poisoning treatment.

To see photos of this condor visit http://www.ventanaws.org/condor286/.

While at the Zoo, 286 was radiographed and the shotgun pellets were discovered.  Once lead treatment has been completed, Zoo veterinarians plan to extract the pellets to determine the type of ammunition.

“We are extremely grateful the bird is still alive, but dismayed this innocent condor was both lead poisoned and gunshot,” said Kelly Sorenson, Ventana Wildlife Society executive director.

“Whoever shot the condor should not be seen as a representative of the hunting community.  No self-respecting hunter would do this,” said Jerry Marquez, a central California hunter.  “The average hunter is conservation minded and wants to preserve the resource for future generations, not destroy it.  Shooting the condor was an act of pure stupidity.”

The act of harming an endangered species is also a federal felony. Condor 286′s injuries and resulting removal from the wild were a significant setback in achieving the goal of establishing breeding pairs of condors in the wild.  Reproduction of wild offspring is a necessary step toward removing condors from the Endangered Species List.

“We were anticipating a breeding attempt by condor 286 this year, so this unfortunate event is a real setback to the flock,” said Sorenson.

While unrelated to the shotgun pellets, condor 286′s lead exposure may have occurred from ingestion of lead bullet fragments found in animal carcasses or gut piles.  Condors are scavengers, only eating dead animals.  In July 2008, California changed hunting regulations to require hunters in the condor’s range to use only non-lead ammunition.  Information on the new regulations can be found on the California Department of Fish and Game’s website at: www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/condor/

Condor biologists see ranching and big game hunting as critical to the survival of the endangered birds.

“Open space with an occasional dead large mammal is the kind of landscape condors live in,” said Daniel George, condor program manager at Pinnacles National Monument.  “Ranchers and hunters that use non-lead ammunition play a key role in maintaining a healthy landscape for condors and other wildlife.”

“The plight of condor 286 illustrates the California condor’s continued struggle for survival,” said Jesse Grantham, California Condor Recovery Program coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  “We need to continue to focus on sources of lead in the environment and eliminate that threat to both humans and wildlife.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the lead federal partner in the multi-agency California Condor Recovery Program.  Release programs are located in Central and Southern California, Baja California, Mexico, and Arizona.  Currently, California is home to two separate California condor flocks.  The central coast flock, located around Big Sur and Pinnacles National Monument, and the Southern California flock, located in and around the Los Padres National Forest, north of Los Angeles and east of Ventura.

Ventana Wildlife Society: In California alone there are 130 species of animals in the wild threatened or endangered with extinction. Ventana Wildlife Society is committed to conserving native wildlife and their habitats. Ventana Wildlife Society released 70 Bald Eagles to central California in the 1980′s and 90′s and began reintroducing California Condors in 1997. Rather than dwelling on past mistakes that brought many of our wild animals to the brink, we focus on the present. We recover individual species and track the populations of many others so that conservation can be timely as well as effective. Focusing on youth education, we better ensure that future generations have the willingness and capacity to help wildlife. Our vision is to have a society who cares for and supports wildlife across the planet, particularly in California. Online at http://ent.groundspring.org/EmailNow/pub.php?module=URLTracker&cmd=track&j=266446724&u=2854815
Contact
Kelly Sorenson,
Ventana Wildlife Society, 831-455-9514

Proceedings from conference available online

Posted at 3:19 pm March 12, 2009 by admin

Now available online: “Ingestion of Lead from Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans”

BOISE, Idaho — Research on the effects and risks of lead exposure from spent bullet fragments and shot is now available online.

The documents are proceedings from the conference, “Ingestion of Lead from Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans,” convened May 12-15, 2008, by The Peregrine Fund, Boise State University, Tufts Center for Conservation Medicine, and the US Geological Survey. The conference for the first time brought together professionals in wildlife and human health to share information on the toxic effects of this source of lead contamination.

Conference attendees offered a relatively easy solution: switch to non-lead bullets and shot.  Such ammunition is available in most popular calibers and is considered by many hunters to be as good as or better than traditional lead ammunition.  Experts said manufacturers will respond to demand, thus solving the problem.

Individual papers may be downloaded at:

http://www.peregrinefund.org/Lead_conference/2008PbConf_Proceedings.htm

An overwhelming weight of evidence presented at the conference shows that:

·        Lead is toxic. It sickens and can kill at high levels of exposure, but even near the lowest detectable levels, lead has measurable health effects, including reduced IQ in children and increased risk of death from heart attack and stroke in adults.

·        Lead from spent ammunition gets into people who eat game harvested with lead bullets or shot, with clinical effects among subsistence hunters.  Effects among recreational hunters have not been adequately studied.

·        Lead from spent ammunition gets into a wide variety of wildlife, including doves, swans, eagles, condors, and mammalian scavengers, regularly sickening and killing some.

·        Non-lead bullets and shot are available as an alternative to lead for most uses.

The roughly 400 pages of the proceedings consist of more than 60 contributions from scientists and professionals in the fields of wildlife, health, and shooting sports. The conference documented evidence from around the world of:

·        Effects of lead poisoning on wildlife that consume lead bullet fragments or lead shot when they forage.

·        Lead exposure in people who eat game harvested with lead-based bullets or shot.

·        Effects of lead on human health at minute levels that were formerly thought benign and currently are not recognized by many health agencies.

·        Lead bullet fragmentation in game meat, extent of contamination of game meat from bullet fragments, and the potential for human exposure to lead from this source.

·        Solutions to the problem of lead exposure from bullet fragments in both wildlife and people, with practical examples from Arizona and California where voluntary and legislative measures have been implemented on behalf of the California condor, and from Germany and Japan on behalf of sea-eagles and human health concerns.

·        Exposure to lead from other sources including fishing tackle, paints, and ceramics having significant negative health effects on wildlife and people.

The Peregrine Fund, a conservation group for birds of prey, convened the conference after a decade of research on wild California condors in the Grand Canyon region of Arizona revealed that lead exposure from spent ammunition is the most important factor impeding the full recovery of the species in the area.  The research also suggested that lead from spent ammunition could be a concern to people who eat game harvested with lead bullets or shot shells.

Efforts by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to encourage hunters to voluntarily reduce lead exposure of condors influenced 90 percent of hunters in the 2008 hunting season to use solid copper bullets as an alternative to lead-based ammunition or remove all remains of their harvest from the landscape.  As a result, no condors died from lead poisoning this season.

“If this result can be achieved throughout the condor’s range, our data shows that condors could survive in the wild without the intensive and expensive management needed now to combat lead poisoning,” said Dr. Grainger Hunt, a scientist for The Peregrine Fund and contributor to the conference proceedings.
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Three Oregon Zoo Condors to be Released into Wild

Posted at 3:12 pm March 12, 2009 by admin

Meriwether, Nootka and Atya ready to fly free in Arizona

condorraw0309post.jpgPORTLAND, Ore. — Three California condors from the Oregon Zoo will be released into the Vermilion Cliffs Monument in northern Arizona March 7, soaring into the open skies that will finally be their home.

Meriwether (No. 379), Nootka (No. 447) and Atya (No. 455) were hatched and raised at the Zoo before being transferred to the Peregrine Fund‘s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, to prepare for their release. Meriwether was transferred in January 2007, Nootka and Atya in October 2008.

This trio will be the second group of Oregon Zoo condors released in the 293,000-acre Arizona monument. They will join Tatoosh (No. 367), Ursa (No. 404) and Wiley (No. 420), who were successfully released in March 2008.

“With every successful condor release we’re another step closer to seeing condors fly over the skies of Oregon,” said Tony Vecchio, Zoo director. “One day Oregonians may again see what Lewis and Clark saw as they traveled along the Columbia River over 200 years ago.”

This will be the 14th release of condors in Arizona since the Peregrine Fund began its recovery program in 1996. Currently, 67 condors are flying free in Arizona, including two wild-hatched chicks that left their nests in the Grand Canyon in December.

“These monumental strides give us great hope for the survival of this species,” Vecchio said.

Condors, the largest land birds in North America, have wingspans of up to 10 feet and weigh 18 to 30 pounds. They are highly intelligent and inquisitive, often engaging in play. Their range extended across much of North America during the Pleistocene era, which ended about 10,000 years ago. By 1940, that range had been reduced to the coastal mountains of Southern California, and in 1967 condors were added to the first federal list of endangered species. In 1987, the 17 condors remaining in the wild were brought into captivity and a captive-breeding program was developed. The world’s total population of endangered condors flying free in the wild is 169 in Arizona, California and Mexico.

The Oregon Zoo’s condor recovery efforts take place at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, located in rural Clackamas County on Metro-owned open space. The remoteness of the facility minimizes the exposure of young condors to people, increasing the chances for captive-hatched birds to survive and breed in the wild.

The center is currently home to 31 condors and has produced 15 eggs since it was established. Of the 15 eggs produced, 14 chicks have survived.

In 2001, the Oregon Zoo became the third zoo in the nation to join the California Condor Recovery Program. California condor captive-breeding programs are also operated at San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey. The Oregon Zoo was the recipient of the Wildlife Society’s Conservation Award for creating the nation’s fourth California condor breeding facility in April 2005.

The Oregon zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the Zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Washington’s pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot butterflies, western pond turtles, Oregon spotted frogs and Kincaid’s lupine. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.

The Zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Zoo visitors are encouraged to ride MAX or take TriMet bus No. 63. Visitors who take the bus or MAX receive $1 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.

General admission is $9.75 (12-64), seniors $8.25 (65+), children $6.75 (3-11), and infants 2 and under are free; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $2 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.

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Oregon Zoo ” 4001 SW Canyon Rd. ” Portland, Oregon 97221 ” 503-226-1561 ” www.oregonzoo.org

Contacts: Bill LaMarche 503-220-2448 or 503-497-5812 (pager)
Linda D’Ae-Smith 503-220-5716 or 503-441-7573 (pager)

Condors En Route to Santa Barbara Zoo

Posted at 4:04 pm March 6, 2009 by admin

Yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, March 4), Santa Barbara Zoo Assistant Zoo Director Alan Varsik and Director of Conservation Estelle Sandhaus arrived in a snowstorm in Boise, Idaho and met up with Zoo CEO Rich Block and Zoo Veterinarian Karl Hill, DVM, who had flown up from Santa Barbara that morning. They  were visiting The Peregrine Fund‘s World Center for Birds of Prey to pick up the four juvenile condors who are coming to Santa Barbara.

“It was emotionally moving to go to the World Center and see all the condors,” said Block yesterday when he was checking into the hotel in Boise. I could hear in his voice that it was.

“We saw 18 breeding pairs and a ton of young birds — nearly 60 condors total — and we’re bringing four home. This is the result of discussions with the California Condor Recovery Program team that started 10 years ago. We’ve built relationships and created a remarkable program and now condors are coming to Santa Barbara. We are making a difference.”

Today, “at first light,” according to Sandhaus, they picked up the birds. Block adds, “It took about 90 minutes to get the birds loaded this morning. The Peregrine Fund staff definitely got a workout catching and crating the condors! Alan got some terrific video of this.”

The birds are being transported in large crates, two in the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Conservation Land Rover and two in a rented van.

They are driving nonstop, straight through, stopping only for gas, food, and comfort, for at least 15 hours to return to Santa Barbara. It may take longer. Sandhaus told me that they were driving with the windows open to keep air flow to the birds, “to keep them cool.” Everyone was quite cool as it was snowing in Boise.

Here’s a report from noon, sent by Block on his Blackberry: “We just crossed into Nevada. The roads are clear, though it’s cold and windy. We’re under partly cloudy skies with billowing clouds casting irregular shadows on the surrounding snow covered slopes. It’s quite beautiful… The condors appear to be good travelers, so far. We’re keeping the vehicles cool so the heated seats are definitely an advantage in the Land Rover.”

Alan called me later to say, “We expect to arrive in the middle of the night in Santa Barbara. We’ll offload the crates into the new condor holding area and then transfer the birds in the morning. All four birds will initially share one holding area but eventually we will give them access to the adjacent holding area during their quarantine.”

The four birds coming to Santa Barbara are: No. 432 (male), 433 (female), 439 (male) and 440 (female). They were all born in Boise within a two week period, from April 12 through 24, 2007. All were reared by their parents except 433, who was raised by foster condor parents.

Three of the birds (432, 433, 439) are descended from AC3 (10 in the studbook) — the female bird that is hanging in the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.  AC3 was never captured, but died in the wild of lead poisoning in 1984. AC3 is their great-grand dam – a nice connection. I don’t know how many thousands of kids have looked up, awestruck, at that bird over the years. I know mine have. Now, Santa Barbara kids and visitors are going to get to see live condors “up close and personal.”

All four birds are related to AC8 (12 in the studbook), the last free flying female condor captured in the wild; she is also a great-grand dam.

All of the staff at the Zoo was talking about the condors today, anticipating their arrival. The other big news today: a brand new baby titi monkey produced by our two relatively new titis. It was seen as a good omen.

We’ll report more after the condors get settled in. I’m considering getting up at 2 a.m. to meet the travelers when they arrive at the Zoo. We’ll see if that still seems like a good idea at 1:30 a.m. when the alarm rings.

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