News from Zoos

Condors to Be Released in Mexico

Biologists from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the Zoological Society of San Diego, the Los
Angeles Zoo, the California Department of Fish and Game, and numerous Mexican partners, began ferrying six California condors from the Los Angeles Zoo to Mexico on August 12, 2002, flying the endangered birds by plane on the first leg of a journey to a remote mountain site where five will be released this fall.

Three of the birds were flown by private plane from Burbank, California to Tijuana, Mexico, said Mike Maxcy,
principal animal keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo. The plane was to turn around and pick up the other three birds later. From Tijuana, the birds were to continue on by plane and truck to a remote and rugged site in the Sierra de San Pedro Martir, where they will remain in a mountaintop pen for several weeks.

Once acclimated, five of the condors, all juveniles, will be released to fly over what was once the southernmost
extension of a range that stretched from Mexico to Canada. Condors have been absent from Mexico for at least 50 years.

"This is another piece of just fabulous habitat where we expect the birds to thrive," said Bruce Palmer, California
condor recovery coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. "To have a place that is reasonably isolated and
protected from people, this is important for the birds to develop."

The sixth bird, an older female, will remain penned at the site to act as a mentor for the other birds, who were all raised
at the Los Angeles Zoo. She will eventually return to the zoo.

In the 1980s, biologists began an aggressive program to capture the last of the free-flying condors and breed them in captivity.Up from an all-time low of 22 birds in the early 1980s, there were 208 condors in the wild and captivity as of August 1, 2002.

As the captive population grew, biologists began returning the birds to the wild in 1992, releasing them in California
and Arizona. The Mexico releases mark the international expansion of the recovery program.

The goal of the $40 million recovery effort is to establish two wild populations and one captive population of condors,
each with 150 birds, including a minimum of 15 breeding pairs apiece. Since condors range so far, biologists will consider the Mexican colony part of the California population, with which it is expected to mix. [Source: Associated Press]


Fossil Rim Establishes Cheetah Conservancy

The Robert B. Haas Cheetah Conservancy will open at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in the fall of 2002. The new conservancy includes seven pens, five of which will be used for public display and two for expectant females, in addition to a modern food preparation facility. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association's (AZA) Cheetah Species Survival Plan® (SSP) deemed the immediate construction of the conservancy vital to the long-term success of the captive cheetah population.

Funded by a generous challenge grant from the Robert Hass Family Philanthropic Fund of $2 for every $1 raised by
Fossil Rim, the $300,000 conservancy will provide Fossil Rim the opportunity to significantly increase the North American captive cheetah population by instituting propagation techniques proven to be successful. Allowing the public a view of the conservancy provides Fossil Rim the opportunity to exhibit cheetahs in spacious, natural environments in an effort to raise awareness for the need to support conservation efforts in captivity and in the wild. [Source: AZA Communiqué]

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre Plants Salt Marsh

On April 16, 2002, staff members and volunteers of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre planted a new salt marsh at the mouth of the BC Hydro Salmon Stream Project in Stanley Park. Salt marshes and wetlands found at the mouths of rivers and streams where fresh and salt water mix serve as a vital feeding and transition ground for salmon about to make their migration to the open ocean.

Volunteers from the Aquarium's RiverWorks program set up four rough plots at the mouth of the Stanley Park stream
with layers of gravel, filter cloth, sand, and peat moss in which plants could take root. The plots were built with a barrier of large rocks to prevent erosion. RiverWorks, an Aquarium initiative, is an estuary clean-up program supported by community groups and volunteers. The BC Hydro Salmon Stream Project highlights the life cycle and importance of salmon and is free to the four million people who visit Stanley Park each year. Salmon return to the stream each fall and can be seen at the park's Alcan Salmon Pool Display. [Source: AZA Communiqué]

Information for News from Zoos is provided by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.