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A storm-toppled tree freed him. Now Oliver, a rare vulture, is on the lam at Oakland Zoo


Amid high winds and stormy conditions, a eucalyptus tree toppled at the Oakland Zoo on Tuesday, landing in a recently completed aviary that housed dozens of birds and small mammals.

No animals were injured, but six birds escaped from the enclosure through a mesh opened by the fallen tree.

By Thursday, three of the birds had returned to captivity, having not strayed far from their damaged home.

But three others, including two pied crows and an endangered African hooded vulture named Oliver, remained outstanding.

“We are keeping an eye on (Oliver) and the other birds that are still out there,” said Erin Dogan, a spokeswoman for the Oakland Zoo.

“We are still confident at this point that we are going to get all the birds back because they are coming back to the aviary,” Dogan said. “It seems that’s where they feel safe.”

All the birds were born in captivity and have been fed and cared for by zoo staff.

“So they’re staying, which is great,” Dogan said, adding that Oliver had yet to leave the zoo grounds.

Oliver is seen in a tree at the zoo.

(Oakland Zoo)

As of Thursday night, the vulture had not eaten since it first flew into the roost. However, he had slowly approached the bait, a thawed rat, which the staff had left to lure him.

Oliver’s partner, Iniko, was also placed in a box in the area in the hope that he would come closer.

A local raptor rescue has provided the zoo with special trap carriers for Oliver, as the zoo has never required such equipment in the past.

“Now we’ve ordered our own, so if this happens again, hopefully it won’t happen, we’ll have the right equipment on hand right away,” Dogan said.

If Oliver spread his wings and took a drive around the Bay Area, he wouldn’t pose a threat to small pets or other birds.

Neither he nor the crows that escaped are birds of prey, Dogan said. “They do not pose a threat to native wildlife, people, other zoo animals.”

Escaped birds have endured harassment from local crows and ravens, Dogan noted.

“If they don’t come back and we can’t get them back, they’re not used to surviving in the wild. They have been cared for and fed,” she said. “We worried about what would happen to them as far as survival.”

But Dogan remained optimistic that Oliver and the other fugitives would return home on Friday.

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