Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Photo by Brendan Host
Zuleta prepares for her big move

Zuleta, our two-year-old Andean Condor, is getting ready for a big trip this week as she prepares for a new life in Florida.

She’ll be joining a breeding program for her species, vital considering she is a CITES I listed species. Zuleta is one of six Andean Condors within the Australasian region, five of which are cared for at Taronga Zoo.

The Andean Condor is a type of vulture, which makes them critical when it comes to disease control. Vultures feed upon the carcasses of dead animals, essentially making them nature’s clean-up crew.

Alarmingly, vultures have become one of the most threatened species of birds in the world, with some populations having been decimated by 99% in areas of Asia, and in Africa it is also fast becoming a reality!

You may be thinking why is this an issue? And the simple answer is, other than losing these often misunderstood but beautiful birds, if you can be affected by disease, which all of us can be, vultures are what helps keep you disease free.

The loss of vultures in Asia has resulted in costs totalling in the billions of dollars due to outbreaks of rabies and anthrax, usually prevented by the role vultures’ play.

Due to the threats facing vultures, it is important that zoos make the best breeding choices possible with the individuals we have.

With so few Andean Condors in Australia, the best option is to have Zuleta relocate to Florida's White Oak Conservation to join the Andean Condor Species Survival Program that is working to save her species.

Zuleta’s genetics are very important and not represented in that part of the world. This move sees Taronga partnering with 36 other zoos, all with the goal of ensuring a sustainable zoo population that can both educate people about their plight, and support conservation action.

We are very excited to have Zuleta join this program. She is inquisitive, parent-raised, and has all the qualities to become a good mother.

In getting ready for the big trip, Zuleta has been trained to undertake all the necessary behaviours she will need for her long voyage.

Our biggest hope it that in the not too distant future we will be hearing that Zuleta has hatched her own strong, healthy chick, meaning the future will be brighter for both vultures and humans.

- Bird Show Keeper, Brendan Host

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