OAKLAND (KCBS)— A lead-poisoned condor that was treated at the Oakland Zoo for three weeks earlier this month, is healthy and was released back into its home at Pinnacles National Park.

The condor was the first patient at the zoo’s new condor recovery center, the only center of its kind in the Bay Area.

The 16-pound bird, nick-named Ventana, with its 9.5-foot wingspan was found in Pinnacles National Forest by biologists who test the species for lead. The birds are susceptible since they pick it up by eating bullet fragments left by hunters and other animal’s carcasses.

“Previously we were driving condors down to the [Los Angeles] Zoo, which is about a five-hour drive each way, so with the Oakland Zoo involved, it’s a much shorter drive; usually about two hours,” said Alacia Welch, a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service at Pinnacles.

Welch said Ventana left Oakland Zoo last Thursday and upon her return home she burst into flight the second the door to her carrier was opened on a park ridgeline.

“Any condor we release like that; they’re totally thrilled to be out of the kennel. She was happy to be free that’s for sure,” said Welch.

The California condor population plummeted into the 20s in the 1980s and is now up to 430 on record.


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