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California condor
San Francisco Chronicle, May 12, 2009

California condor dies at LA Zoo of lead poisoning
Associated Press

A California condor that was among the first six members of the endangered species released to the wild in 2003 at Pinnacles National Monument has died at the Los Angeles Zoo of complications from lead poisoning.

Pinnacles wildlife biologist Jim Peterson said No. 286 died Monday after zoo officials worked for more than a month to remove lead from his bloodstream. He had lost more than half of his 24-pound body weight.

The condor was poisoned by ingesting lead ammunition used by game hunters.

Biologists found the bird also had multiple birdshot wounds, although that did not contribute to the poisoning.

The species was near extinction in the 1980s when all remaining members — just over two dozen — were placed in captive breeding programs that have increased the population and allowed birds to be released into the wild.

Condors feed on the carcasses of dead animals, including those shot by hunters. Biologists say the biggest threat to condors in the wild is lead ammunition, which has been banned in 15 condor counties since July 1.

Pinnacles National Monument is in central California, southeast of the Monterey Bay region.

© 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton