Conservation Corner: California Condor Recovery Program

Written by Los Angeles Zoo Curator of Birds Mike Maxcy

California Condor in Flight Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife
California Condor in Flight (Photo provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife)

The California Condor Recovery Program facility at the L.A. Zoo began in the 1980s with three trailers—one became the office, one was dedicated to incubation and brooding, and chicks are housed in the third. They’ve served us well these many years, but are past their prime. This year, we were fortunate enough to receive an $80,000 grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), so the Zoo’s construction crew is working on a new structure where we will do all our incubating and maybe some chick rearing. Though it will be about the same size, it will have temperature control, which is critical when you have incubators going, and will make this task a lot easier.

The game plan is to replace each of the remaining trailers as funding becomes available and eventually have a new compound. Something that has been discussed for years is incorporating a behind-the-scenes viewing area where we have one-way glass set up at one of the exhibits or breeding pens.

After 30 years, the USFWS is at the point where they’ve almost reached full capacity of staffing to monitor condors. So before long, we’re going to have birds that won’t be wing-tagged or fitted with transmitters. There are going to be nests out there that no one knows about and we’ll truly have a wild population—for better or for worse. At some point, they’ll probably have isolated areas that they’ll maintain and check, but there will be large groups of birds that will go unmonitored, and those groups will only get larger. But that’s a good problem to have. The L.A. Zoo will continue to play a vital role in expanding the condor population and providing veterinary care for wild birds.

Originally published in the September/October 2009 edition of Zooscape.