The Oakland Zoo Staff visit the California Condor
There we were, 12 Oakland Zoo staff, winding our way down the Big Sur coast. We were spending a clear, bright Sunday morning with Sari, a biologist from the Ventana Wildlife Society, in hopes of learning about condors and perhaps catching a glimpse of this highly endangered bird. On route from the Ventana Wildlife Society's rustic outpost office in Andrew Molera Park, Sari told us a bit about condor history, her work and the nature of condor breeding.
The California Condor was at the brink of extinction due to habitat loss, poaching and lead and DDT poisoning. In 1987, the US government approved a captive breeding program and the 22 remaining condors were captured and bred at various California zoos with the help of the Ventana Wildlife Society. Now 147 California Condors live freely and are beginning to reproduce in the wild: a true conservation success story!
Though lead poisoning is still a threat (see Quest Piece), conservationists hope that recent lead bullet legislation will bring that threat to an end. The Ventana Wildlife Society also trains their charges to avoid electrical wires, another challenge to their survival.
Sari's job is to monitor all of the 42 condors that call Big Sur home. She tracks them with antennae that pick up their radio tags every day, and if 5 days go by without seeing one of them, she goes on a mission to find them. Not surprisingly, Sari loves her job.