Feds give Oregon Zoo $2M to save more California condors

The Oregon Zoo has been awarded $2 million from the federal government to
further support
 the conservation of the California condor – a
critically endangered species.

Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden helped secure the
funds for the zoo’s Condor Restoration Resiliency Project, and other statewide
community programs, through the $1.7
trillion bipartisan year-end spending package
 passed by the U.S.
Senate in December.

“The funding, included in the year-end omnibus bill
signed into law by President Biden, will ensure the zoo’s condor recovery
efforts can continue uninterrupted,” the Oregon Zoo said.

Part of the funding will reportedly be put toward
modernizing the zoo’s offsite Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation in rural
Clackamas County. Oregon Zoo director Heidi Rahn said that the center,
which is the second-largest condor breeding facility in the U.S., has been
forced to evacuate its employees numerous times in recent years due to
wildfires and power outages caused by winter storms.

“Thanks to Senator Merkley and Wyden’s support for this
project, our center will be better equipped to withstand weather-related
events, protecting condors and staff so that recovery efforts can
continue,” Rahn said. “Each chick hatched at the center is a lifeline
for the species.” 

The California condor was included in the initial Endangered
Species Act in 1973. By 1982, it was estimated that 22 of these birds still
existed in the wild. In 1987, the last-remaining condors were captured and
cared for by scientists in order to preserve the species. 

In 2003, the Oregon Zoo partnered with the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service’s condor recovery effort with the goal of “hatching and
releasing as many condors as possible,” the zoo said. Since that time, the
species’ population has rebounded to 500, with more than 300 condors existing
in the wild.

In 2022, the
zoo hatched a record 12 condor chicks
. The zoo also released eight condors
into the wild, including the three birds used for the Yurok
Tribe’s historic reintroduction
 in Humboldt County, Calif.

The Oregon Zoo’s lead condor keeper Kelli Walker said in
August of 2022, that the hatchlings spend at least eight months with their
parents and another year in outdoor “pre-release pens” before they
are released into the wilds of California and Arizona.

“Some of the chicks are still big fluffy balls of
fury,” Walker said. “But they’ll be full-fledged condors before long.
Once they’re flying on their own, they’ll practice in larger enclosures until
they’re finally ready to soar into the wild.”