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Only 3 Remain in Wild : 2 More Male Condors Netted by Researchers

Times Staff Writer

Biologists using cannon-launched nets captured two male California condors in as many days, leaving only three of the vulture-like birds free in the wild.

One of the big birds--about 10 years old and known to biologists as AC-6--was taken to the Greater Los Angeles Zoo, where zoo research director Cathleen Cox said it will be “essential” to the zoo’s Condor Captive Breeding Program.

The other--about 14 years old and known as AC-2--was being kept in a portable cage while its blood is tested for its lead content. If it is not unusually high, National Audubon Society spokesman Jesse Grantham said, the bird will be fitted with a new locator-radio and released.

Both birds were caught in the same remote area of the Tehachapi foothills about 25 miles south of Bakersfield.

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AC-2 was snared about noon Tuesday as it zeroed in on the carcass of a stillborn calf used as bait.

AC-6 had gone for the same bait about 19 hours earlier. After its capture, it was taken by special truck to the zoo, where it was held in quarantine while it was examined for lead in the bloodstream and other possible problems.

Important to Breeding

Cox said AC-6 is important to the zoo breeding program because it is not related to any of the other birds in captivity there. “Inbreeding,” she said, “can lead to defective births, so the capture of a bird with completely different genes is a big step to making our breeding program successful.”

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Zoo spokeswoman Lorrie Cohen said there is another reason, too.

If AC-6 gets a relatively clean bill of health, it will be placed in a special enclosure next to one shared by two other captive condors--a male named Topa Topa and a female known as Tama-Yawut--in the hope that its presence will encourage Topa Topa by creating the idea that Topa Topa has a little competition.

“Topa Topa gave his first courtship display Feb. 20,” she said, “and it was quite a surprise. He’s just not romantic.”


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