New care center treats condors where they live

Facility means no more transports to Phoenix, Page

The Arizona Game and Fish Department and The Peregrine Fund recently worked together to create an advanced, new condor treatment facility in the area of Arizona where dozens of condors live, near the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

"Until now, condors had to be transported to Page, or even as far as the Phoenix area for emergency care," said Kathy Sullivan, a condor biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "At this new facility, we can develop X-rays, do exams and provide rehabilitation to the birds right in the area of Arizona where they live."

The shell of the building was already there, but the new equipment and upgrades at the facility would have been helpful over the summer, when a condor was attacked by another animal, and biologists had to transport the dehydrated, injured bird to Flagstaff for X-rays and to The Phoenix Zoo for antibiotic treatment and attention. Luckily, that condor was quickly located after the attack, thanks to a satellite transmitter attached to its wings. Fast transport and good medical care helped the bird to fully recover.

Biologists from The Peregrine Fund, who monitor the condors on a daily basis, designed and constructed the new climate-controlled treatment facility at Marble Canyon. Their design features an X-ray machine, a laboratory, isolation chambers and a rehabilitation area. A veterinarian from The Phoenix Zoo, Dr. Kathy Orr, has already trained biologists to carry out basic medical procedures and will continue to be involved in the evaluation of condor cases that come into the facility. The new equipment will save biologists valuable time by making it unnecessary to transport the birds more than two hours for X-rays.

"We hope this facility and the tools within will help expedite treatment and provide a more rapid return to the wild for sick and injured birds," says Chris Parish, condor project director for The Peregrine Fund. "The less time they spend in captivity, the better."

The $20,000 worth of upgrades and equipment to outfit the new condor treatment facility were paid for by the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund. Arizona voters approved creation of the Heritage Fund in 1990, and all Heritage Fund money comes from Arizona Lottery ticket sales and goes to conservation efforts like protecting endangered species, educating children about wildlife and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation.

California condors have been federally listed as endangered since 1967. In 1982, only 22 condors were left in the world. Biologists captured them in an effort to save and breed the species. Experts now care for the birds and periodically release them in California, Mexico and Arizona, as the population begins to rebound.

Condors were reintroduced in Arizona in 1996. Sixty of the birds now live in the wild in our state. Visitors can sometimes see the birds, which can have a wingspan of up to 9 1/2 feet, at the Vermilion Cliffs and at the Grand Canyon's South Rim. The condor reintroduction in Arizona is a joint project of several partners, including Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Peregrine Fund, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Kaibab National Forest and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

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