Four condors hatched at zoo's offsite facility last year are released at Vermilion Cliffs
Four California condors hatched and raised at the Oregon Zoo's Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation are soaring through the open skies of Arizona this month, marking another important step in the effort to save this critically endangered species from extinction.
Condors No. 965 and No. 975 — who hatched at the Jonsson Center last spring — lifted off at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument yesterday, joining a growing population of free-flying condors living among the area's sandstone escarpments and colorful rock formations.
Two additional Oregon Zoo condors — No. 964 and No. 971 — were part of a Sept. 26 release at Vermilion that was live-streamed by The Peregrine Fund. No. 971 is familiarly known to condor care staff as Cade, in honor of Peregrine Fund founder Tom Cade, who died shortly before the egg was laid in 2019.
"The condors released last month are doing great," said Tim Hauck, program manager for The Peregrine Fund. "They're roosting in good spots and getting plenty to eat."
All of the wild releases at Vermilion are "soft releases," meaning the birds exit the flight pens at their own discretion. When a condor enters the outer holding area of its pen, the inner door closes and triggers the outer door to open, allowing the bird to fly free.
"It's tremendously gratifying to see them take off," said Dr. Kelly Flaminio, who oversees the Oregon Zoo's condor recovery efforts. "Over the years, condors raised by the Oregon Zoo have been very successful and have paired up with other condors to raise new wild-hatched chicks."
The California condor was one of the original animals included on the 1973 Endangered Species Act and is classified as critically endangered. In 1982, only 22 individuals remained in the wild and by 1987, the last condors were brought into human care in an attempt to save the species from extinction. Thanks to recovery programs like the Oregon Zoo's, the world's California condor population now totals around 500 birds, most of which are flying free.
The Oregon Zoo's condor recovery efforts take place at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, located in rural Clackamas County on Metro-owned open land. The remoteness of the facility minimizes the exposure of young condors to people, increasing the chances for captive-hatched birds to survive and breed in the wild.
More than 70 chicks have hatched at the Jonsson Center since 2003, and more than 50 Oregon Zoo-reared birds have gone out to field pens for release. Several eggs laid by Oregon Zoo condors have been placed in wild nests to hatch.
California condor breeding programs are also operated at San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Idaho.?
Video courtesy of?Alan Clampitt, The Peregrine Fund