The Last Stand
The situation for the California condors remaining in the wild had deteriorated to worse than critical in 1987. The last female, AC-3, was discovered very ill and a blood test showed she had lead poisoning from ingesting bullet fragments. By January 1986, she could no longer fly, and she was brought to the Wild Animal Park for emergency treatment and surgery—but veterinarians were unable to save her. It was a heartbreaking loss. There were only a few male birds left in the wild, including AC-9, seen here. This was the last stand—it was clear that the birds had to be collected, or they would surely die. The organizations and agencies involved realized that this was a point of no return, and permission was granted to bring the remaining wild birds into the Wild Animal Park and Los Angeles Zoo, to keep them safe and so they could be part of the breeding program that was now the only thing between their species and extinction.