A California condor at the Santa Barbara Zoo.
A Sneak Preview of Santa Barbara Zoo’s Newest Exhibit
Monday, April 13, 2009
The Santa Barbara Zoo is soaring to greater heights.
On April 25, the public is invited to come celebrate the official opening of the zoo’s California Trails exhibit, the centerpiece of which is the recently completed California condor aviary dubbed “Condor Country.” Housing four juvenile condors - don’t let the word “juvenile” fool you, the two-year-old birds already have wingspans of nine-and-a-half feet - the exhibit sits atop a hill overlooking the Santa Ynez Mountain range, which is part of the endangered birds’ natural habitat range.
The new $7.5 million complex, which also showcases a variety of other endangered California species including the Channel Island fox and California desert tortoise, is the largest construction project in the zoo’s nearly 50-year history. And with the addition of the condor aviary, the Santa Barbara Zoo becomes one of only three zoos in the world to display the endangered bird, joining Condor Ridge at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City.
A child spies a California condor while walking by the new exhibit at the Santa Barbara Zoo.
While there are no plans to breed the birds during their stay at the Santa Barbara Zoo, their new home was designed and built in collaboration with the Condor Recovery Program. In an effort to continually raise population numbers in the wild and in captivity, the program determines which birds are housed, released, and/or bred.
According to assistant zoo director Alan Varsik, the individual birds in the zoo may change over time but, as of now, the four new additions will act as “ambassadors” to the Zoo and their species. Varsik also explained that housing four condors, who are designated by the Condor Recovery Program as numbers 432, 433, 439, and 440, is a way of freeing up space for facilities that specialize in breeding the endangered animals.
When asked why the Santa Barbara Zoo chose to showcase the iconic birds, Varsik said that the process began over 10 years ago when zoo staff started attending Recovery Program meetings and asking how they could become involved in the revival efforts. In 2002, the zoo officially became partners in the recovery process and began planning the new exhibit, “With their natural habitat in sight, and the zoo’s enthusiasm for the project, it just seemed like a good fit for everybody,” Varsik said.
For more information on the April 25 opening, be sure to visit the Santa Barbara Zoo’s website at santabarbarazoo.org/.
Tyler Hayden is an Independent intern.