Zoo & Aquarium News

CA Condor Treated for Lead Poisoning at Oakland Zoo

Oakland, CA – On Thursday, May 1, 2014 at approximately 11:00am, a California condor arrived at Oakland Zoo for treatment of lead poisoning in the Steve and Jackie Kane Condor Recovery Center. She is the first condor to be treated at Oakland Zoo. “While we never like to see sick or lead poisoned birds, today is really a fantastic day for Oakland Zoo because the zoo’s Condor Care Team is now able to put their skills and special training into helping save this magnificent bird,” said Dr. Andrea Goodnight, Associate Veterinarian at Oakland Zoo. Currently, the condor is recovering and receiving chelation therapy each day until her blood levels reveal she is lead free. At that time, she will be taken to Pinnacles National Park to be released back into the wild. Right now, the bird can be watched up-close via the Zoo’s FedEx Condor Cam, which is a webcam located inside the rehabilitation enclosure. See link below to view.

Condor #444 was tested for lead poisoning at Pinnacles National Park on Wednesday, April 30 and test results concluded she was suffering from lead poisoning. Oakland Zoo officials received a call from the Condor Field Crew Leader at Pinnacles National Park that the bird could arrive at the zoo the next morning. This is significant because until now all condors were being transported to the Los Angeles Zoo for treatment. The travel time to Oakland Zoo is a significantly shorter drive.

For nearly two years, veterinarian staff and zookeepers have been working with Ventana Wildlife Society’s field biologists and staff at Los Angeles Zoo to handle and practice treating the highly endangered birds that weigh approximately twenty pounds and have a wing span of nine and a half feet. Oakland Zoo became a partner of the California Condor Recovery Program in the fall of 2012. At that time, the Steve and Jackie Kane Condor Recovery Center was constructed and the permit process was underway. The long process of traveling, training, studying, and waiting for permits was extremely important to Oakland Zoo because it is a testimony of the Zoo’s commitment to conserving animals in the wild.

Condor #444 hatched in Big Sur, California on May 5, 2007. Her biological parents are #33 and #68. She has been seen nesting in Pinnacles National Park with her mate #340. “This bird is very special to us as representing the second generation of condors in the wild and a direct outcome of our hard work,” said Kelly Sorenson, Executive Director of Ventana Wildlife Society. Field biologists are optimistic about offspring in the future. #444 was given the nickname “Ventana” because she is the oldest living wild-raised chick in the Central California flock. She is a very important bird to condor recovery efforts due to the fact that she did not grow up in captivity; instead, she was raised in the wild by condor foster parents (#167 and #190) and had minimal human intervention. Ventana's foster parents were released by Ventana Wildlife Society.


In 1987, the last wild California condor was taken into captivity to join the twenty-six remaining condors, in an attempt to bolster the population through a captive breeding program. Through the effort of California zoos and the Ventana Wildlife Society there are now about 232 California condors in the wild. For more than twenty years, Ventana Wildlife Society and others have made it a mission to save the bird from extinction by regularly trapping and treating condors suffering from high blood levels of lead. Prompt treatment has saved the lives of several birds in the flock. They monitor nests to ensure the greatest protection possible from potential threats to productivity. In 2013, Jerry Brown, Governor of California signed into law a phase out of lead ammunition throughout the state for all hunting. Lead from spent ammunition is the most significant problem for California condors and this new law gives hope for condor survival in the future; however, the new law, AB711, does not go into effect until 2019.

Being actively involved in a conservation partnership with Ventana Wildlife Society is very important to Oakland Zoo.Contact: nmora@oaklandzoo.org


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