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Sanctuary to Release 4 Condors

March 18, 2000|ALEX FIELD

After a postponed release date and 14 years in captivity, the wild-born female condor known as Adult Condor No. 8, will be returned to her home territory in the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, just north of Fillmore.

AC-8 is to be released April 4 with three juvenile condors, raised in the Los Angeles Zoo, that will be experiencing life in the wild for the first time. Biologists hope that AC-8 will help the young birds to learn the skills necessary to survive in the wild. The juveniles have been in a flight pen with AC-8 and other adult birds for the last several months.

The release of AC-8, scheduled for earlier this year, was postponed because of weather and access problems, said Mike Barth, the project's wildlife biologist.

In 1986, AC-8 was the last female bird taken from the wild through the California Condor Recovery Plan. She is the first of the original birds to be released. She was considered a prime candidate, as she is now beyond the breeding age.

All four birds will be transported to a holding facility at the Sespe Condor Sanctuary a week prior to the release to acclimate them to their new surroundings. The sanctuary has not been used as a release site in years, Barth said, although some condors have returned to the Sespe range on their own.

In 1994, biologists removed condors from the Fillmore and Piru areas when five died in power pole collisions. The birds underwent power pole aversion training while in the flight pen at the zoo. The training consists of a light electrical shock upon landing on a mock power pole and has proven to be successful.

"It's the highest perch in the flight pen, so you know they want to land there," Barth said. "But you don't see them land on it anymore. They basically avoid it."

The recovery plan hopes to establish two populations, in California and Arizona. The goal is to raise 150 birds in each area, with at least 15 breeding pairs. There are now 26 wild condors in Arizona and 16 in California.

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