Condor 286, dubbed "Pinns" because he's one of the oldest condors released at Pinnacles National Monument, died after sustaining gunshot wounds and lead poisoning. Courtesy VWS
The case of two California condors shot by poachers took a tragic turn last week. LA Zoo staff found condor 286 dead in his pen on Monday, May 11. In March, biologists from the Ventana Wildlife Society (VWS) captured condors 286, an adult male, and 375, a juvenile female, because both birds were ill. It turned out that they’d both been shot, and their bodies were riddled with lead pellets. In addition to the wounds, the critically endangered creatures were both suffering from lead poisoning—not from the injuries inflicted by poachers, but likely from eating carrion that had been shot with lead ammunition. After weeks of once-daily injections to remove lead from her system, VWS biologists released 375 in Big Sur on May 1; she immediately took wing and is thriving, according to reports.
Condor 286 wasn’t so lucky. When biologists found him in March, he was starving because the lead paralyzed his digestive system. At 10.8 pounds, he’d dropped more than half his body weight (he normally weighed in at 24 pounds). Zoo staff put 286 on a feeding tube and treated him for lead poisoning, according to VWS. They removed the feeding tube a couple of weeks ago when he seemed to be getting better. On May 10, his health began to deteriorate again and he was hooked up to an IV. He didn’t last the night.
“Condor 286 was at the forefront of our central California Recovery effort and he will be remembered as key contributor to our elite group of free-flying condors. This flock wouldn't be where they are today without condors like 286...he will be sorely missed."
Though it’s unclear whether the birds were shot intentionally, groups including the VWS, Center for Biological Diversity and the Humane Society of the United States are offering a $40,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of their shooter(s). Unfortunately, so far officials are drawing a blank.
To sign Audubon California’s petition to stop poaching, click here (thanks for the link, Liz).