Thanks to the efforts of many people, eight condors were transported, by truck, back across the border to the Sierra San Pedro Martir release site on Tuesday, March 11th. This was the first time we transported condors across the border by land and not by air. As complicated as flying the birds to the site is, the ground route proved even more troublesome. Even with the best advanced preparation for this trip we ended up delayed at the border for several hours more than expected, which convinced me that in the future we’ll be flying the birds to Mexico whenever we can. Luckily the cool temperature day made the stress levels of the birds tolerable and by evening they were all jockeying for position high up on release site aviary perches. They will remain in Mexican quarantine at the site for about a month and will be tested for specific diseases by SAGARPA (USDA counterpart) before they can be re-released. Once we have permission from Mexico, we will be able to dramatically reduce the risk of food contamination by testing all carcasses and animal parts given to the birds with our new digital, field x-ray machine.
So many groups and individuals helped make this condor recovery effort a success, starting with Juan and Catalina in the field trapping, testing and helping to move the birds north, followed by the efforts of the veterinarians and medical staff at the Harter Veterinary Hospital, organized and coordinated by Dr. Jeff Zuba. Managing the isolation and medical treatment of such a large group (beginning with 11 birds) was a challenge for the keeper/vet staff. Valerie Stoddard now has the International Health Certificate process engrained in her mind. Thanks also to our new condor post doctoral fellow, James Sheppard and vet keepers for doing condor watch while they were in the recuperation pens. Thanks to Elvia de la Cruz and Eduardo Peters in INE for the fast work with the MX CITES and the HRZ and Dave Rimlinger and Carol Dittmer for hanging in there with the US CITES export permits. Dr. Fernando Sanchez continues to do the amazing job of coordinating passage through the frenzy of stamps and signatures from 4 agencies at the Mexican border, which are required to move the birds from one country to the other. Sheila and Fatima from the condor department helped drive everyone back to the sierra. Without these folks and more, we would not have a condor release program in Baja.
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