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Weakened California Condor is Rushed to Los Angeles Zoo for Treatment

A subadult California condor was captured today along the Big Sur coastline and found to be in very weakened and debilitated physical condition. Ventana Wildlife Society biologists were alerted by a local resident on September 2 that had seen a condor on the ground and behaving oddly. Over the next two days, biologists closely monitored her activity and attempting to trap California condor #336 using nets, but she still had enough strength to fly into nearby trees when approached. On September 5, Ventana and Pinnacles biologists finally captured her as she was perched on the ground and unable to successfully take flight. Upon capture, she offered little resistance, was very weak and dehydrated, and weighed only 11 pounds, well below her usual 16-17 pound range. A local Monterey veterinary hospital examined her and found no external physical injuries that would have prevented her from flying. They gave her intravenous and subcutaneous fluids to treat the dehydration and X-rays showed that no radio-opaque metal fragments (lead) were found in her gastrointestinal tract. However, preliminary tests indicated elevated blood lead levels that resulted in the condor being rushed to the Los Angeles Zoo where she will undergo immediate emergency medical treatment in an attempt to save her life.

"Condor 336 was perhaps our most well-known condor having been featured for the last year in a YouTube film clip show her devouring a deer heart," said National Park Service Superintendent Eric Brunnemann. The 4 year old female had been released at Pinnacles National Monument in the fall of 2005 and has become part of the central coast California condor flock.

From a population low of 22 birds in the mid 1980s, California condors are making a slow, but steady recovery through intensive captive breeding efforts and public education programs. As of August 2008, 176 California condors live in captivity, and 156 are in the wild, with 82 of those found in California. The initial goal for the state of California is to have 150 free flying condors. Currently, there are 41 free-flying condors that call this part of central California home and frequently fly back and forth between Pinnacles and the Ventana Wildlife Society release site on the Big Sur coast.

The California condor recovery program is a collaborative effort with the Ventana Wildlife Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California State Fish and Game, National Park Service, the Peregrine Fund, Santa Barbara Zoo and the USDA Forest Service as well as the captive breeding institutions of San Diego Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, and the World Center for Birds of Prey.

The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage. Established in 1908, Pinnacles National Monument preserves 26,000 acres encompassing the spectacular remnants of an ancient volcano, talus caves, a rich array of California native plant and animal communities, and a vibrant cultural and historical legacy. Pinnacles is a highly dynamic landscape, shaped by earthquakes, floods and fires. Nearly 70 percent of the park is designated wilderness, and preserves the wilderness qualities of unspoiled habitat, natural quiet, dark night skies and solitude in a rapidly developing region of California. Pinnacles National Monument is the first national park unit to serve as a release site for California condors.

Ventana Wildlife Society has been saving native California wildlife through research, restoration and education for more than twenty-five years. In 1997, their expertise in wildlife restoration allowed VWS to become the first private, non-profit organization to be responsible for releasing and monitoring California condors in the wild. In addition to their work with condors, VWS has been involved with the restoration of prairie falcons, peregrine falcons and bald eagles to the Big Sur and Central Coast Region. VWS also monitors songbird populations and carries out a number of research contracts through the Big Sur Ornithology Lab, including identifying bird responses to habitat restoration and tracking monarch butterfly population fluctuations and migration patterns. Ventana Wildlife Society also provides innovative and exciting environmental education and internship opportunities to youth and young adults throughout the Central Coast Region.

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