BIG SUR (CBS SF) – The Oakland Zoo and a Monterey County wildlife group on Monday debuted a live “Condor Cam” that allows the public to view endangered California condors in a remote mountain area above Big Sur.
The zoo partnered with the Salinas-based Ventana Wildlife Society on the webcam project. The camera, located in a canyon about 2 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, is connected to a wireless system that allows the online feed, Ventana’s chief biologist for condors Joe Burnett said.
The camera was installed beside a feeding station where Ventana places meat from calves discarded by ranchers for the condors to eat, allowing biologists to monitor the endangered birds, Burnett said.
“We’ll be able to account for the birds better,” Burnett said. “The only way you can tell if they are surviving is to get a head count.”
The feeding station provides the scavenger birds with clean meat, free of the lead that can be found in animals such as coyotes and squirrels that have been shot by farmers.
Condors sometimes eat those animals and can suffer from lead poisoning, which is a leading cause of death for the birds, he said.
Currently, condors with lead poisoning have to be driven about eight hours to the Los Angeles Zoo, which has the nearest animal hospital able to treat the birds.
However, in a couple of months, the Oakland Zoo will begin treating sickened condors at its veterinary hospital, making the drive much shorter, Burnett said.
The clean-meat feeding stations are “not something we want to do, but we have to do,” Burnett said.
The non-profit Ventana group, which worked on the reintroduction of the endangered American bald eagle in the 1970s, is licensed by the federal and state governments to rehabilitate condors that were sick or raised in captivity and release them to the wild, Burnett said.
The camera project, which cost between $15,000 and $20,000, is the result of a collaboration with the Oakland Zoo, which secured the wireless connection and enlisted FedEx to donate funds for it, Burnett said.
A camera firm called Camzone built and provided the special pan-tilt camera, Burnett said.
The condor cam can be found at www.ventanaws.org.
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