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No Deaths This Time : 3 More Condors Released at Test Site

Times Staff Writer

As part of a plan to test the survivability of condors in the wild, a second group of Andean condors has been taken to a site in Ventura County, the head of the California condor recovery program said Friday.

“We had a very successful transfer of birds last night,” said Joseph J. Dowhan, who leads the program for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “All three birds are doing very well.” The operation went much more smoothly than the first transfer of birds in August, during which one of the condors died, Dowhan said.

The Andean condor project is a prototype for testing release techniques that biologists hope to use with zoo-bred California condors in the 1990s. All 28 California condors known to be in existence are held captive in Los Angeles and San Diego as part of the federal project to try to re-establish them in the wild.

Two puppet-reared birds from the Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park and a parent-reared bird from a federal wildlife center in Maryland were driven late Thursday afternoon from Los Angeles to the release site in the Los Padres National Forest, Dowhan said.

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The birds were checked regularly along the way to assure that none was in trouble, he said. In August, one of four birds died, apparently of fright, during the trip to the site north of Fillmore.

The new group, all about 4 months old, are inside a roost box that covers about half of a 35-by-16-foot platform suspended from telephone poles and covered with netting. The birds will remain in the box until they are comfortable with their companions, and will gradually be released into the wild this winter, after they are ready to fly.

The first set of Andean condors is doing well in a holding pen built into the side of a cliff, Dowhan said. They are interacting socially, and the oldest one is “a fairly strong flier” whom the younger birds try to imitate, he said.


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