I’m so excited to finally bring you news about Condor #134, a.k.a. “Harry”! You may recall the adult male condor that was discovered on the floor of the Grand Canyon last May. The bird was very sick and near death due to lead poisoning, but swift action and cooperation between Phoenix Zoo veterinarians, Wild Animal Park veterinarians, and the Park’s bird department lead to a life-saving transfusion (see Valerie’s blog, Harry the Condor’s Progress). As I left the story some months ago, he was on his way to a complete recovery, but not completely “out of the woods” yet. There have been many inquiries since about his progress, so here’s the continuation of Harry’s story….
Once he was well enough to leave the Phoenix Zoo veterinary hospital, it was time to prepare Harry for his long-awaited release back into the wild. He was held for a short time at Vermilion Cliffs’ treatment facility where he continued to improve, gaining weight and asserting dominance over other condors he was being housed with. Finally, on July 21, after over five months in captivity, Harry was released to his home in the Grand Canyon again, free to fly with the rest of the area’s condor population. Members of the Phoenix Zoo staff directly involved with Harry’s recovery were invited to witness his release that day; no doubt this was a gratifying conclusion to the long hours they contributed which allowed him to soar once again.
While we’re all grateful that Harry’s story was ultimately a happy one, the threat of lead poisoning is a continuing battle for conservationists. There have been other condors that didn’t fare as well as he, despite equally valiant efforts to save them.
There are strides being made in discouraging the use of lead bullets, which are one of the most serious risks to the health and well-being of the California condor. Since 2004, efforts have been underway to offer hunters free bullets made of copper as an alternative to their lead-filled counterparts. An organization known as “Project Gutpile” initiated the program and has made great progress in educating hunters and anglers, as well as the general public.
While many challenges remain in the preservation of the majestic California condor, the dedication shown by those who care for them will offer the best chance they have to remain alive, healthy, and free. Stories like Harry’s, and those of you who care enough to read them and be educated, serve as an excellent reminder of how precious and vulnerable these wonderful birds are, and how important our continued vigilance is to their species.
And finally, Hooray for Harry!
Valerie Stoddard is the senior administrative assistant at the Wild Animal Park’s Harter Veterinary Medical Center.
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