Condor chicks were hatched at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Four condor chicks have hatched inside the Center for Avian and Wildlife Health here at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The chicks are female Cali, Alexander, Miles and Skylar. It’s a first for the sanctuary…

Four condor chicks have hatched inside the Center for Avian and Wildlife Health here at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The chicks are female Cali, Alexander, Miles and Skylar.

It’s a first for the sanctuary as it celebrates their 25th anniversary and another first for our National Zoo.

Earlier this winter, we released half-female, half-male pairs of condors. Condors do not typically mate with individuals from the same species — unless they have known each other through the family.

So, for those few condors that the mothers and fathers had known well, a very important human role was played. Cali and Alexander were born at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The other three chicks hatched at the shelter on March 15. The four chicks range in age from 3 to 12 weeks old.

Condors nest in aviary chimneys, so the chimney is a closet in a shelter with a highly insulated roof and cage walls with soft underbrush. There are 20 adult condors, 36 juvenile condors and 2,355 eggs that are laid in the more than 500 nest boxes that we have set up across the West Coast.

Rarely in the wild do condors mate between species. Only two pairs have been known to establish a family line in Chile. Maternal bonds are difficult to maintain and offspring born to a pair that has never seen another pair mating has a chance of survival in the wild. However, once an adult bird is already established in a habitat and can attract a mate, the species becomes more likely to prosper.

Of the 1,660 breeding pairs of condors in the wild, only an estimated 20 percent nest in dens in established zoos. Thus, efforts to increase the success of captive breeding programs to increase the survival of the species, and lessen our dependence on captive breeding programs, are essential. The time is also ripe for conservation of native species throughout the West and increased efficiency in captive breeding programs to provide better genetics for reintroduction to the wild.

Condors are a threatened species on the brink of extinction. Once common throughout North America, the population has declined to less than 450 wild condors today, mostly concentrated in a 2,000-square-mile region of central Utah. The remaining wild condors are found mainly in California, Arizona, Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

These birds currently benefit from captive breeding efforts to maintain a population for reintroduction to the wild. But preserving the global heritage of this species is even more critical to the survival of wild condors because they are an excellent guide to other species, and their once constant presence helped preserve critical areas of undeveloped lands that are currently being threatened by human activity.

The Lincoln Park Zoo is part of the wild condor conservation effort through the Endangered Species Conservation Partnership, which brings together the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Zoo, Yosemite National Park, the San Diego Zoo, and the San Diego Zoo Global network of research and education organizations to develop, coordinate and implement programs to help reduce habitat degradation and extinction threats to the condor species. These efforts include captive breeding and bird conservation, educational outreach, collaborative research, new technology efforts and funding of similar projects.

All those efforts are necessary to help save the condor from extinction. Thanks to our Mission Statement, which begins: “Think big. Care for our community. Learn to please and excel.” It’s the tenets of keeping people and animals in balance that give us hope.

For more information about condor conservation and several programs please visit: http://www.nwco.org/contacts/condor/default.aspx

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