The Oakland Zoo is treating three California condors suffering from lead poisoning.
Biologists captured the sick birds in Big Sur earlier this month and brought them to the zoo for life-saving treatment.
Veterinarian Andrea Goodnight and her team have been injecting the condors with a chemical that extracts the lead.
"Basically what it does is grabs onto the lead and it pulls the lead out of the body," Goodnight said.
One of the birds regurgitated pieces of toxic metal just the other day. Goodnight said the scavenger birds, which are endangered, likely ingested bullet fragments from their prey.
"The lead comes from ammunition, so basically what happens animals that have been shot haven't been recovered," Goodnight said. "These birds are great at finding them. They eat them and ingest the lead that way."
The intensive treatment includes injections, blood work and X-rays. Every step is critical to helping the birds purge the lead before it does irreversible damage to their digestive and nervous systems.
"Basically the bird starves to death or it starts having seizures," Goodnight said.
After two weeks in Oakland, Goodnight said the birds are looking much stronger.
If the birds' lab work comes back relatively lead free, they will be returned to the wild next week. If not, the birds will undergo another round of treatment starting Saturday.