With this exhibit, the Santa Barbara Zoo becomes one of only four zoos in the world to display the endangered, California condor, joining Condor Ridge at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, Elephant Odyssey at the San Diego Zoo, and the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City.
The exhibit, called Condor Country, was designed in collaboration with the California Condor Recovery Program with the particular needs of the birds in the forefront of the planning criteria.
The exhibit covers 6,000 square feet, but more importantly, encompasses 174,000 cubic feet of “glide space.”
There are redwoods and oaks, wooden “snags” and a stream which fills two different pools (studies show that condors bathe and spend hours smoothing and drying their feathers).
A rockwork “cave” has three small jagged-framed windows that the public can use to view birds close-up, if they are inside or near the entrance.
The rest of the exhibit is viewed through mesh, from upper viewing area on two different levels, and from the boardwalk below, looking up the hillside. The exterior stainless steel mesh was hand “sewn” in place by workers. The structure supporting the mesh is exterior to the exhibit, making all the walls “elastic like” and without hard elements.
Twenty-five-foot and 35-foot fabricated “snags” are made to look like wood but have steel rods reinforcement. These, along with the rock work elements, provide for a variety of perching opportunities while still allowing significant glide paths.
The exhibit’s rockwork are really works of art. Fabricators from Cemrock (Tucson, Arizona) visited the Sespe area to see the type of cliffs where the wild condors nest. They took pictures and captured the distinctive coloration of that region.
The new condor holding area has two large rooms. Holding was designed to be flexible as possible, to give options for facilitating introductions (through mesh openings) and managing the birds with the exhibit. A separate secondary management space that allows yet more flexibility in housing or separating the birds.
Photo credit: Sheri Horiszny