Headlines & Webcasts

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.

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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Lead Claims Another Condor

Posted at 4:34 pm October 1, 2008 by Yadira Galindo

Condor No. 336 died of lead poisoning in September despite the efforts of wildlife biologists to save the 4-year-old bird. The loss of this bird to lead poisoning is tragic as she was just about to reach breeding age. The loss of even one California condor, when the population is just a little more than 330 birds, is devastating to the California Condor Recovery Program.

Wild Condors Recover

Posted at 1:12 pm September 26, 2008 by Yadira Galindo

Although two birds were lost during the summer wildfires in Big Sur, California, the rest of the birds survived and are being closely monitored by biologists with the Ventana Wildlife Society.

San Diego Zoo Donates Money to Condor Fire Relief Fund

Posted at 12:07 pm August 28, 2008 by admin

San Diego Zoo Donates to Condor Fire Relief Fund

Posted at 4:57 pm August 22, 2008 by admin

condorventana.jpgFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 22, 2008
CONTACT: PUBLIC RELATIONS
(619) 685-3291
WEB SITE: http://www.sandiegozoo.org

PRESS RELEASE

MISSING WILD CONDOR WAS FROM SAN DIEGO ZOO’S WILD ANIMAL PARK

BIG SUR, CALIF. — This week the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park curator of birds delivered a $10,000 check to aid the Ventana Wildlife Society in its recovery from a devastating wildfire. A California condor formerly from the Wild Animal Park was lost in the fire.