taking action for

California Condors

Since 2014, Oakland Zoo has treated and released 52 endangered California condors back into the wild.

To see a California Condor soar over the cliffs of Big Sur is to truly experience the grandeur of the wild world. However, this beautiful bird is nearly extinct and would not be in existence today if it was not for human intervention. In 1986, the last wild California Condor was taken into captivity, amounting to a mere 27 remaining California Condors on our planet. Luckily, an alliance of organizations and zoos came together to conserve, breed, and release these giants into the wild, bringing to a halt the extinction of a magnificent species. California Condor numbers have grown, but they still face deadly threats. Oakland Zoo is proud to be part of the California Condor Recovery Program to help rehabilitate sick and injured Condors. Our commitment is to ensure condors never come close to extinction again.

Conservation Challenges

Lead Poisoning

Though recent numbers are encouraging, California Condors are still classified as critically endangered by the IUCN and face ongoing threats to their survival.

As opportunistic scavengers, the biggest threat to condors is poisoning from lead shot. Lead bullets fragment into hundreds of pieces when they hit a target, and when condors feed on the carcasses of those targeted animals, the birds ingest the poisonous metal. The fragments and the lead itself cause damage and severe illness or death to condors.


Tiny bits of trash like broken glass, bottle caps or even the corners of a wrapper look like food for a young chick. When condor parents bring these colorful bits to the nest for feeding, the micro-trash can get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract of young condors and cause impaction, preventing the birds from digesting food and resulting in starvation or death.

Loss of Habitat

Habitat loss and obstruction pose a threat to most animals, including condors. Condors need adequate nesting sites, roosting sites and foraging habitat with adequate food for their basic survival. Human encroachment through land development can adversely affect condor behavior and reduce the number of mammals on the landscape, resulting in less food sources for condors. Collisions with power lines and electrocution from perching on power lines or poles also pose a threat.

Climate Change

Climate change increases the risk of hot, dry weather that can fuel wildfires. In California, these fires have killed condors, destroyed habitat, and wiped out condor recovery centers. 

A visiting condor at Oakland Zoo's onsite Condor Recovery Center.

A condor is examined by Oakland Zoo vet staff prior to being treated for lead poisoning.

Oakland Zoo is Taking Action for the California Condor

California Condor Recovery Program

Oakland Zoo is proud to be involved in the conservation of California Condors. In 2013, the Zoo became a member of the California Condor Recovery Program, a multi-organizational group responsible for the management of California Condors. We work closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, Ventana Wildlife Society, Pinnacles National Park, and the Los Angeles Zoo. The California Condor is an icon of the West and serves a unique position in our ecosystem. Oakland Zoo is also uniquely positioned in California to assist with the condor population as it expands northward.

Steve and Jackie Kane Recovery Center 

A holding facility was constructed on Oakland Zoo’s property to ensure a quiet space that offers critical treatment for sick or injured condors. This center provides a safe environment for condors to receive essential veterinary treatments and animal care before being released back into the wild. On May 1, 2014, Oakland Zoo received and treated its first California condor suffering from lead poisoning. Since then, we have treated dozens of condors and have assisted in numerous condor releases where the birds return to their natural habitats. The recovery center features a live webcam so you can observe condors when they are here for treatment.

Veterinary and Animal Care

Oakland Zoo's veterinary staff is trained to provide medical care, including lead chelation therapy, to wild condors that are deemed ill or injured by field biologists. Our veterinary staff is also actively involved with biologists in the field and at major universities, collaborating on projects to better define the threats to condors and find solutions. Several members of the Zoo's Animal Care, Conservation, and Research department are also trained in condor husbandry and play an integral part of in caring for California Condors rehabilitating at the zoo.

Public Engagement

Oakland Zoo has offered Field Biology workshops for middle and high school students using GPS data from wild condors to analyze conservation problems. Additionally, the Zoo offers teens the opportunity to attend Condor Camp - a program allowing students to spend time outdoors with condor biologists. Public awareness campaigns sponsored by Oakland Zoo have helped spread knowledge about ammunition choices and the dangers of micro-trash have also helped protect the condor.

Project Support

Oakland Zoo supports the lifesaving work of Ventana Wildlife Society through grants and by providing monthly supplemental food for wild condors in Big Sur, California. Oakland Zoo worked with FedEx to place the first California Condor cameras in the field, allowing field biologists and the public to observe condors in their natural habitat. The zoo also supports the work being done at Pinnacles National Park to conserve California Condors in that region.

Ventana Wildlife Society

Ventana Wildlife Society is committed to conserving native wildlife and their habitats, and is an active support in the CA Condor recovery program through treatment of lead poisoned birds, radio tracking and monitoring, captive breeding, and public education.


Pinnacles National Park Foundation serves as the only NPS unit that manages a release site for captive bred California condors and currently co-manages 86 wild condors in central California with Ventana Wildlife Society.

California Condor Recovery Program

The California Condor Recovery Program is a multi-organizational group responsible for the management and rehabilitation of California condors, particularly from the ravages of widespread lead poisoning on the still-endangered population.

Taking Action for Condors: You Can Too!

  • CHOOSE copper ammunition for hunting. Making the switch to non-lead bullets promotes cleaner, healthier, ecosystems for scavenger animals.
  • PICK UP microtrash and be mindful of your litter when you hike. California Condors ingest small trash items and feed them to their chicks. This microtrash can cause severe illness or death to the chicks. 
  • GO condor spotting -- travel down the Big Sur Coast or inland to Pinnacles National Park, to see these spectacular birds in flight. Then, tell others about your experience. Believe it or not, by spreading the word about these majestic animals, you are helping to keep them alive.