Oakland Zoo and Oregon Zoo Arrange for Captive Bred California Condors to Take First Flight into the Wild Aboard FedEx Plane

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On Thursday, August 21, 2014, six young California condors boarded a FedEx plane and began a journey that led them a step closer to the wild.

California condors being unloaded from FedEx plane in Oakland

“We are very grateful to FedEx for the gift of flight for these birds,” said Oakland Zoo Managing Director Nancy Filippi.

September 3, 2014
Contact: Nancy Filippi, Managing Director
Oakland Zoo
(510) 632-9525 ext. 132

Contact: Nicky Mora, Senior Manager, Marketing/PR
Oakland Zoo
(510) 632-9525 ext. 130

Contact: Hova Najarian, Media and Publications Officer
Oregon Zoo
(503) 220-5714

Oakland Zoo and Oregon Zoo Arrange for Captive Bred California Condors to Take First Flight into the Wild Aboard FedEx Plane

On Thursday, August 21, 2014, six young California condors boarded a FedEx plane and began a journey that led them a step closer to the wild. The precious cargo began their flight in Portland, changed planes in Oakland, and had a final flight destination of Los Angeles. Here are links to video and photos from the trip:

The highly endangered birds were hatched and raised at Oregon Zoo’s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, located in rural Clackamas County.

“At this point, each egg that arrives, every chick that hatches, and every bird we can release into the wild is vitally important to the survival of this species,” said Kelli Walker, senior condor keeper at the Oregon Zoo. “These chicks were down in the pre-release pen with several adults, and all of them showed very good ‘wild’ behaviors. They are still very young, although No. 645 has proven to be a handful when catching her up.”

Two of the birds, Walker noted, have been given pre-release names by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe: Chick No. 687 is Ksh'pali (Upper Cowlitz species name for condor) and chick No. 688 is Stuqw (Lower Cowlitz Salish for Thunderbird).

“Though native to this region, and commonly seen during the time of Lewis and Clark, California condors haven’t soared through Northwest skies for more than a century,” said Oregon Zoo animal curator Michael Illig. “We would like to see that change.”

Because of Oakland Zoo’s role in the California Condor Recovery Program, Nancy Filippi, Managing Director of Oakland Zoo, learned about the condors and the need to transport them to Los Angeles, California. Instead of loading the six condors into a vehicle and driving numerous stressful hours, she decided to contact FedEx to find out if they could help with transportation needs. FedEx graciously agreed to donate the flight for these endangered birds, which number just over 200 left in the wild. “We are very grateful to FedEx for the gift of flight for these birds,” said Oakland Zoo Managing Director Nancy Filippi.

Oakland Zoo and Oregon Zoo are part of a team called the California Condor Recovery Program, which was developed in order to manage the species back from near extinction. Partners in condor recovery 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, Oakland Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, The Peregrine Fund, Ventana Wildlife Society, and a host of other governmental and non-governmental organizations.

After the six young California condors landed in Los Angeles, Joseph Brandt, Supervisory Wildlife Biologist for United States Fish and Wildlife Service was waiting to claim the birds. From the airport, the birds were driven to Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, where they will acclimate and be released into the wild in mid-September.

“Working with Oregon Zoo, Oakland Zoo and FedEx has helped us to achieve the many successes in condor conservation,” said Joseph Brandt, Supervisory Wildlife Biologist, USFWS California Condor Recovery Program.

It took a team of people dedicated to saving a species to turn this flight into reality and without the help of FedEx, it would not have been possible.

In 1987, the last wild California condor was taken into captivity to join the twenty-six remaining condors, in an attempt to bolster the population through a captive breeding program. Through the effort of the California Condor Recovery Program, there are about 232 California condors in the wild. For more than twenty years, the program has made it a mission to save the bird from extinction by regularly trapping and treating condors suffering from high blood levels of lead. Through the breeding program and prompt veterinary treatment of the birds, a group of dedicated individuals have come together to help save this species. Condor nests are monitored to ensure the greatest protection possible from potential threats to productivity. In 2013, Jerry Brown, Governor of California signed into law a phase out of lead ammunition throughout the state for all hunting. Lead from spent ammunition is the most significant problem for California condors and this new law gives hope for condor survival in the future; however, the new law, AB711, does not go into effect until 2019.

More than forty chicks have hatched at the Jonsson Center since 2003 — including four this spring — and more than twenty-five Oregon Zoo-reared birds have gone out to field pens, with most released to the wild. In addition, several eggs laid by Oregon Zoo condors have been placed in wild nests to hatch. The remoteness of the Jonsson Center facility minimizes the exposure of young condors to people, increasing the chances for captive-hatched birds to survive and breed in the wild.

At the Oregon Zoo’s recently opened Condors of the Columbia exhibit, visitors can get an up-close look at these highly endangered birds, learn about the survival challenges they face — and, most importantly, find out how to help bring them back. For more information about the Oregon Zoo’s California condors, visit http://www.oregonzoo.org/Condors. The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro regional government and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. In addition to California condors, the zoo is currently working to save endangered Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and giant pandas.

In 2012, Oakland Zoo made a commitment to help rehabilitate sick or injured condors by building The Steve and Jackie Kane Condor Recovery Center, a facility specifically designed to treat the massive sized birds. Veterinary and zookeeper staff trained for several months in tandem with the veterinary staff of Los Angeles Zoo, which prior to Oakland Zoo was the only Zoo in California able to treat lead poisoned condors. In 2014, Oakland Zoo successfully treated five California condors for lead poisoning and worked with Ventana Wildlife Society and Pinnacles National Park to have the birds returned to the wild. To see live streaming video of California condors in the wild of Big Sur California, go to Oakland Zoo’s FedEx Condor Cam, where you can also see condors recovering in The Steve and Jackie Kane Condor Recovery Center: http://www.oaklandzoo.org/Condor_Cam.php?cam=Big_Sur
To learn more about Oakland Zoo’s role in helping to save California condors go to: http://youtu.be/7Bhm3k_OINA

The Bay Area’s award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kid’s activities perfect for science field trips, family day trips and exciting birthday parties. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to wildlife conservation onsite and worldwide. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, in 500-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, off Highway 580. The East Bay Zoological Society (Oakland Zoo) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supported in part by members, contributions, the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks. For more information please visit our website at http://www.oaklandzoo.org.
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Nicky Mora, Senior Manager, Marketing/PR
Oakland Zoo
+1 (510) 632-9525 Ext: 130
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Hova Najarian, Media and Publications Officer
Oakland Zoo
since: 12/2009
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