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Condor biologists at Pinnacles National Monument and Ventana Wildlife Society tracking the health of a wild condor nestling (chick) in the park discovered last week that the bird had extremely high levels of lead in its blood. Park Service biologists then trapped the parent male, condor 318, and discovered he also has toxic levels of lead in his blood.
The adult condor was immediately taken to the Los Angeles Zoo for chelation (a treatment to remove lead from the body) while the 50-day old chick was treated by veterinarians and condor biologists in the nest during early morning climbs into the rocky cliff cavern.
Although the adult female continued to care for its young and the nestling received several emergency chelation and hydrating fluid injections, the young condor’s health degraded further. As a result, biologists decided yesterday that, for the survival of the nestling, it needed to be evacuated for intensive care.
National Park Service and Ventana Wildlife Society biologists are trying to trap the adult female of this pair to determine if she too has been exposed to lead.
Hundreds of park visitors over the past two months have enjoyed the rare opportunity to witness an active condor nest in the wild. For those interested in expressing thoughts on this story, please visit the Pinnacles National Monument website, www.nps.gov/pinn, and use the “Contact Us” link.
This condor nest was the first inside Pinnacles National Monument since re-establishment efforts began there in 2003 and the first documented nest in the park in over one hundred years.
Pinnacles National Monument will keep the temporary closure area around the nest in place until biologists determine whether the nestling can be returned to the wild.
· Parent Condor 318 was originally released along the Big Sur coast by Ventana Wildlife Society, while parent condor 317 was released at Pinnacles National Monument.
· The National Park Service and Ventana Wildlife Society collaborate to manage the central California flock of 52 condors.
· More information on the National Park Service program can be found at: www.nps.gov/pinn/naturescience/condors.htm
· More information on Ventana Wildlife Society’s program can be found at: www.ventanaws.org/species_condors
· Chelation is a process used in condors in which calcium EDTA, a chemical that binds with heavy metals, is injected into the animals to prevent retention of lead in the tissues.
· Condors are exclusively scavengers, feeding on a wide range of dead mammals.
· Sport hunting, euthanasia of farm animals, and depredation of various wildlife pests all play a key role in the condor ecology by generating food resources for these critically endangered scavengers.
· Prior research has established that the principle source of lead exposures among condors is lead ammunition used in sport hunting, depredation hunting, and farm operations. For more information, see: www.ucsc.edu/news_events/press_releases/text.asp?pid=927
· Shooters who have made the switch to non-lead ammunition have made an invaluable contribution to the health of scavenging wildlife.
· Lead Ammunition has been banned for the sport hunting of big game and nongame species within the condor range. For more information, please see: www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/condor
· There are four captive rearing facilities involved in Condor Recovery – The Los Angeles Zoo, The San Diego Wild Animal Park, The Oregon Zoo, and the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho
· There are five condor release sites in western North America – Pinnacles National Monument operated by the National Park Service, Big Sur Coast operated by the Ventana Wildlife Society, Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Vermillion Cliffs operated by the Peregrine Fund, and El Parque Nacional San Pedro Mártir in Baja California – a joint venture of the Zoological Society of San Diego and several Mexican agencies and organizations.
· Video information related to condor recovery efforts at Pinnacles national Monument can be found at: www.nps.gov/pinn/naturescience/condor_video.htm