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February 27, 2019

Condor Hope Flying in the Bird Show

The Los Angeles Zoo is thrilled to introduce the first California condor to participate in a free-flight, naturalistic bird show, allowing guests a bird’s eye view of the critically-endangered species the L.A. Zoo helped bring back from the brink of extinction. Aptly named Hope, this four-year-old, female New World vulture will help serve as an ambassador for her species by allowing staff the opportunity to share her unique journey and educate guests on how they can help save California condors in the wild.

“Being able to share the story of Hope and her fellow California condors through our free-flight bird show will leave a lasting impression on our guests by highlighting the beauty, intelligence, and heart of one of America’s most critically-endangered species,” said Mike Maxcy, curator of birds at the Los Angeles Zoo. “Wildlife conservation can be demonstrated through various efforts, but perhaps the most effective way is to impart knowledge through visual stimuli.”

Hope’s story began on June 17, 2014 when she hatched at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. A member of the California Condor Recovery Program (CCRP), Hope was set to be released to the wild around her second birthday. However, before she could be released, her caretakers noticed she had sustained a wing injury and was unable to fly correctly. On March 20, 2015, the decision was made to send Hope to the L.A. Zoo to undergo surgery to mend her wing. After a long rehabilitation process, Hope was still not able to sustain any lift while flying, which no longer made her a candidate for release. Without the ability to fly, Hope would be unable to live among a group of birds high in the mountains, forage for food, and evade predators. In June 2017, the decision was made to welcome Hope into the L.A. Zoo’s naturalistic, free-flight bird show. After several months of training and bonding with her animal keepers, Hope is finally ready to confidently glide and hop around in front of a live audience for the first time.

“The significance of Hope’s role in this free-flight bird show is not only as a symbol of the L.A. Zoo’s commitment to conservation efforts for California condors, but also as a source of pride for the community,” said Denise Verret, interim zoo director. “Hope’s story is yet another way we can share with the public the hard work we are doing on behalf of our fellow Angelenos to preserve a species found in our own backyard that is needlessly dwindling.”

The L.A. Zoo has housed California condors since 1967, when the now legendary Topatopa came to the Zoo as a malnourished fledgling rescued from the wild. In 1987, there were only 27 California condors left on the planet, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Fish and Game Commission agreed to create a captive breeding program for the species. Over the years, the Zoo’s role in this collaborative program has evolved from a focus on building a captive breeding population to one of monitoring and maintaining the populations of wild birds that have been re-established in California. There are now roughly 500 California condors in the world, of which about half are living in the wild. The number fluctuates daily due to many outside influences such as habitat loss, DDT contamination, consumption of micro trash in their environment, and above all, lead poisoning from eating bullet fragments in animals killed with lead bullets.

The California condor is the largest land bird in North America with wings spanning an amazing nine-and-a-half feet! Adult condors stand at around three feet and weigh 17 to 25 pounds. The species can soar to heights of 15,000 feet and may travel up to 150 miles a day. Adult condors have a mostly bald head and neck colored in shades of pink, red, orange, yellow, and light blue. Their feathers are mostly black except for white underwing linings. Condors are highly intelligent, social birds. They are inquisitive and often engage in play, especially immature birds. Condors find their food mostly by their keen eyesight. Like vultures and other scavengers, condors are part of nature’s cleaning crew, feeding on the carcasses of large mammals including deer, cattle, and marine mammals such as whales and seals.

Guests can now observe Hope, along with her fellow bird show companions, at the Angela Collier World of Birds Theater every day of the week (excluding Tuesdays) at 12:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., weather permitting.

About the Los Angeles Zoo

Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing nearly 1.8 million visitors each year, is home to a diverse collection of 1,400 animals representing 270 different species, 58 of which are endangered. Its lush grounds on 133 acres feature a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $21 for adults and $16 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo Web site at www.lazoo.org.