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California Condor Dies, Leaving Only 26 Of Its Species Alive

January 18, 1986

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A captured California condor died Saturday, a victim of lead poisoning which had paralyzed its digestive tract and slowly starved the bird, leaving only 26 of its species alive, officials said.

The condor died less than three hours after a tube was surgically implanted from the bird’s neck to its stomach in a desperate effort to feed the severely weakened animal, said Tom Hansom, spokesman for the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

The condor’s lead poisoning was caused by swallowing shotgun pellets in the carcasses of animals it ate in the wild.

The bird had been receiving intravenous food for the past six days wiht little improvement. Saturday morning’s operation, known as an esophagostomy, was performed as a last resort because of ″a continual decline in the female condor’s condition,″ Hansom said.

Hansom said when the bird awoke from the anesthetic, it tried to tear the tube from its neck with its feet, which then were bound.

With the bird’s death, only 26 California condors are still known to exist. Of those, five are in the wild and the rest are at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo.

At one time before her capture, the bird suffering from lead poisoning was believed to be the last breeding female condor to exist in the wild. But U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said Jan. 10 that there appeared to be a mating pair among the five remaining wild condors.

The bird, known as AC3, was brought to the park Jan. 3 from the wild about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. It had not eaten since its capture, and veterinarians believe it may have done without food for several weeks before that in the wild.

Any food that had been fed the bird by hand did not move beyond the crop, a sac near the top of the throat where food is stored before digestion.

A previous operation performed by veterinarians found there was no physical blockage of the bird’s digestive tract.

The implanted tube was intended to carry meat that had been reduced to fluid by a blender.

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