In 2016—months before the Los Angeles Zoo celebrated its fiftieth anniversary—the world’s oldest known California condor, Topatopa, turned 50 years old. Since he hatched, his species has gone from the very precipice of extinction to a population of 500-plus, most of which live in protected wilderness areas. It’s fitting that Topatopa’s conservation success story parallels the history of the Los Angeles Zoo, which has been his home since he was discovered as a malnourished fledgling.
The California Condor Recovery Program grew along with Topa, and the L.A. Zoo’s role has evolved over the years to represent what zoos do best in the conservation world—combine experience and knowledge gained from years of hands-on work with other conservation agencies.
Since the program’s inception in 1982, the world population of California condors, which dipped to as low as 22 in the 1980s, has climbed to more than 520 individuals—with more than half of those birds living in the wild.
Partners include the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Game and Fish Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Utah Department of Fish and Wildlife, the federal government of Mexico, the Yurok Tribe, San Diego Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, The Peregrine Fund, Ventana Wildlife Society, and others.