In 1996, six California condors were released into the wild near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Condors hadn’t been seen in this area since the turn of the 20th century, and it was the beginning of an ongoing effort to reestablish the nearly extinct species.
Yesterday (March 2), the Wild Animal Park’s Harter Veterinary Medical Center (HVMC) received an urgent call from the Phoenix Zoo, which medically supports the condor release program in Arizona and had just received a desperately ill bird. Condors in this ongoing cooperative release program are regularly monitored visually and with radio transmitters. The 10-year old male condor, ” Condor 9601,” that was part of the group released 9 years ago was discovered on the floor of the Grand Canyon, sick and unable to move.
Upon arrival to the Phoenix Zoo, veterinarians gathered data from blood samples that revealed dangerously high levels of lead in the condor’s body. It is unclear where the lead poisoning had originated, but now time was of the essence and a blood transfusion was the chosen treatment at this critical stage.
Phoenix Zoo has no condors available at their facility from which to obtain the much-needed blood, so their veterinarian contacted Wild Animal Park Condor and Veterinary Services departments, urgently requesting donor blood for the emergency transfusion. The departments acted quickly and with as much concern for the bird as they would have if it were still in our care. The critically ill bird was hatched here at the Wild Animal Park in 1996, so being given the opportunity to participate in its treatment is considered a privilege by our animal care staff.
Arrangements were made by Wild Animal Park staff to get another condor’s blood to Arizona first thing this morning. Condor ” Simerrye” was chosen as the donor, and quickly brought to the hospital where veterinarian Jack Allen and hospital support staff prepared for the emergency procedure.
Simerrye’s blood was drawn and carefully bottled in preparation for overnight shipment to Phoenix. The bird was monitored for a time and then released back to his enclosure, unaware that he was contributing, along with HVMC and Phoenix Zoo hospital staff, to the rescue of his distant cousin so far away.
The blood was delivered this morning, and the transfusion scheduled to take place immediately. We don’t yet know the outcome of condor ” 9601″ in Arizona, but are anxiously awaiting word from Phoenix Zoo medical staff. No matter the outcome, the many people reaching across hundreds of miles to help one free-flying condor has been a valiant effort.
An update of the condor’s condition will be available in the next HVMC blog.
Valerie Stoddard is the senior administrative assistant at the Wild Animal Park’s Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center.
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