by Leslie Storer
The Oakland Zoo has just opened California Trail, a series of habitats featuring species that are currently or were once found in California. This is a theme near and dear to my heart. My career path found me interpreting wild animals from around the world to zoo guests. The whole time I asked myself, ‘What about the species in our backyard?’
I am proud to be associated with this project as an animal care staff member, because of the emphasis on rescued individuals and the ties with conservation partners. There’s another reason I’m especially excited about this project, but that’s a surprise.
The California condor program is a prime example of the direction modern zoos are going. The two males in the condor habitat were hatched at other zoos and are members of the breeding population, which means they will live in Oakland until duty calls. What guests do not see (unless they are watching the webcam) are any condors that may be at our condor recovery center. We work with field biologists at Pinnacles National Monument and Ventana Wildlife Society in Big Sur who are monitoring wild individuals for lead poisoning. If the biologists discover an individual suffering from lead poisoning, the bird is transported to the Oakland Zoo where several staff members, myself included, are specially trained to handle and treat them. While guests marvel at the North America’s largest flying bird, they also learn about their conservation story: from 22 birds to over 400, more than half of whom are in the wild today.
Leslie Storer is a GGAS Board Member who started developing her passion for birds at the age of twelve as a volunteer at the San Francisco Zoo. She is currently an animal care manager at the Oakland Zoo, where she is part of the team of people specially trained to treat wild California condors for lead toxicity.