In 1967, an emaciated young condor was taken to the Los Angeles Zoo for rehabilitation. After receiving expert care, the condor was released into the wild but watched closely. The young bird did not thrive and the decision was made to recapture and provide a permanent home for the bird at the zoo.
The bird in question is, according to the studbook that lists every individual California condor on Earth, California condor #1.
But #1 is hardly a suitable name for “one of the most, if not the most, genetically valuable California condor in the world” – that’s according to Los Angeles Zoo Curator of Birds Mike Maxey, as quoted in the Fall 2016 issue of Zoo View magazine. That 3-year-old article also reported that #1 had so far fathered 34 chicks!
Condor #1 does have a “real” name but there is some ambiguity surrounding that name. Here’s the story.
According to the Zoo View article noted above, #1’s name is Topatopa, or Topa for short. This is the name that I found in a variety of publications spanning several decades, including:
Verner, Jared. 1978. California condors: status of the recovery effort. General Technical Report PSW-28. Forest Service.
Hartt, Ernest W, and colleagues. 1994. Effects of age at pairing on reproduction in captive California condors (Gymnogyps californianus). Zoo Biology.
Snyder, Noel, and Helen Snyder. 2000. The California condor: a saga of natural history and conservation. Academic.
However, at least one author felt the need to tweak the capitalization to TopaTopa:
Hudson, Jeffrey S. 1979. Controversy over the California condor. Sierra. July-August.
A number of authors like the pair of capital T’s, but insist on adding a space, yielding Topa Topa:
Young, Ralph L. 1979. DFG proposes captive breeding to save the endangered condor. Outdoor California. January-February.
Toone, William D, and Arthur C Risser Jr. 1988. Captive management of the California condor Gymnogyps californianus. International Zoo Yearbook.
Finkelstein, M, and colleagues. 2015. California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). In The Birds of North America, edited by P G Rodewald. Version 2.0. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The Topa Topa spelling was also chosen for a March 1986 article by Bonnie Wiliamson in Bird Talk magazine. Here’s a photo of #1 from that article (photo credited to Jennifer Mayer):
Other authors opted to replace the space between the Topas with a hyphen, yielding Topa-Topa:
Todd, Frank S. 1968. The thunderbird. Zoo View.
Anonymous. 1983. Condor update – research and captive propagation effort widened. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. January.
Topa Thrift and Loan Association. 1983. Let us put a Topa-Topa condor in your hand! Los Angeles Times. May 18.
That last item is an advertisement from a bank named “Topa”. Anyone opening a new account with $1,000 would be given a 13″ tall plush condor “modeled after Topa-Topa, the famous California Condor living at the Los Angeles Zoo”. (The bank also stated it would make a donation to the zoo for every account opened.)
Even those agreeing on the hyphen couldn’t agree on the capitalization. So at least one (notable) author chose Topa-topa:
Goodall, Jane. 2009. Hope for animals and their world: how endangered species are being rescued from the brink. Grand Central.
I also ran across Tapo-Tapo:
Anonymous. 1982. Rare condor chick settles into captivity. Chicago Tribune. August 16.
The most current version of the California condor studbook that I have seen (11 April 2017) lists #1‘s “house” name as TOPA-TOPA (all caps).
A number of authors were apparently on a “short” name basis with #1. These items, for example, referred to Topa:
Rauzon, Mark J. 1986. The last condor. Marine Endeavors.
Geyer, Charles J, and colleagues. 1993. Analysis of relatedness in the California condors, from DNA fingerprints. Molecular Biology and Evolution.
Sahagun, Louis. 2009. From dud to stud, a condor conversion. Los Angeles Times. January 11.
Fittingly, condor expert Sanford Wilbur was on a one-syllable name basis with #1, employing Tope in his book Nine Feet from Tip to Tip (Symbios, 2012).
According to the 2016 Zoo View article noted above, #1 was “named for the Topatopa Mountain Range of the Sespe Condor Sanctuary”. My inspection of a dozen or so maps found consistency in the spelling Topatopa. For example, there is a USGS (United States Geological Survey) map titled “Topatopa Mountains”. On the map itself the mountains are identified with an all-capital spelling:
Of course, there are variations on the spelling of the mountain’s name. I have a postcard that is captioned “Mount Topa-Topa”. The New York Times went with the misspelled “Topatota Mountains” in a 30 October 1967 article by Nancy J. Adler.
But cartography seems to support the spelling Topatopa.
Now, where did the name of the mountain come from? In his article “Chumash Placenames”, from the Journal of California Anthropology in 1974, Richard B Applegate writes:
Surviving Ventureño village names [include] sitoptopo, “the carrizo patch”, now Topatopa Creek and Topatopa Mountains.
Ventureño was one of the languages spoken by the Chumash people. (“Carrizo” means “reed” in Spanish.)
Others claim that “topatopa” (or some variant) is a Chumash word for a place with an abundance of gophers. Still others have contested this.
Given all the confusion described above, it probably won’t surprise anyone that #1, now known to be male, was referred to as female in a number of items published after his capture.
To close, it strikes me that a bird as famous and important as #1 should be able to have his name spelled correctly and consistently. Perhaps the Los Angeles Zoo could form a committee to address this issue – once and for all.
(With this post, the Pseudogryps blog begins its 6th year. Thank you for reading.)