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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One Response to “Condors En Route to Santa Barbara Zoo”

  1. Shirley E Stroup says:

    Anxious to come to the zoo to view these glorious condors.

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