Meriwether, Nootka and Atya ready to fly free in Arizona
PORTLAND, 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)
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