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California condor eggs laid at Oregon Zoo boost recovery for the endangered species

First, California condors nearly went extinct from poaching, lead poisoning and habitat destruction.Then the California wildfires last summer threaten...

Posted: Feb 17, 2021 12:20 AM

First, California condors nearly went extinct from poaching, lead poisoning and habitat destruction.

Then the California wildfires last summer threatened to devastate their recovering wild population.

Now, hope is on the horizon as the critically endangered species has added nine eggs to their numbers since January 15. The most recent egg came on February 7.

Laid at the Oregon Zoo's Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, the eggs are a much-needed boost for the species' survival. Nine eggs over the span of a month are the largest amount the condor breeding season has seen in the center's 18-year history.

Dr. Kelly Flaminio, who oversees the Oregon Zoo condor recovery efforts, told CNN these eggs are a promising first step in rebuilding condor populations on the West coast.

"I can't stress enough how important each individual is in this program," Flaminio said.

"It's not only about increasing the number of birds we have total, it's about increasing the number of birds we can get into the wild that reach breeding age so we can have more breeding happening in the wild. That's the key to gaining a sustainable population."'

Condors generally lay eggs during January and February and produce one egg per year, Flaminio said, adding that the eggs came earlier than usual this year.

The zoo often uses a process called "double-clutching" to produce two eggs. Double clutching occurs when an egg is transferred from one parent to a surrogate parent so the first mother is stimulated to lay a second egg.

Though the eggs are a good first step, it's not guaranteed that all nine are fertile, meaning they might not all hatch. The first chick would come sometime in March following a 54 to 58 day incubation period, Flaminio said.

Recovery efforts were slowed by California fires

The Oregon Zoo is one of several institutions working with US Fish and Wildlife to increase wild condor populations in California, Utah and Arizona.

Breeding in captivity has steadily increased condor numbers over the past several decades. The 1000th California condor hatched in 2019, CNN has reported. At the time, there were more condors in the wild than in captivity.

By comparison, only 22 total birds remained in 1982 when the species was nearly extinct.

The California condor remains critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. One large source of danger that remains is lead poisoning, which occurs when a condor eats the carcass of a shot animal that contains fragments of lead bullets.

Last year, wildfires in California threatened wild populations in the area. California fires destroyed the Ventana Wildlife Society's Big Sur Sanctuary for condor research in August, CNN has reported.

About 500 condors were in the wild during the last count prior to the fires. Because of the damaged surveillance equipment, Flaminio said they don't know exactly how many wild condors were lost last year.

"Our goal is to produce as many chicks as we can every year to just get that wild population higher and higher," she said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Multnomah38744593
Washington25768233
Marion22259309
Clackamas17723214
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Jackson10959141
Deschutes920075
Umatilla823684
Linn503468
Yamhill450376
Klamath449464
Polk379453
Malheur353063
Josephine337271
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Jefferson222237
Coos209835
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Union145123
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Wasco138428
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Crook114022
Morrow111316
Clatsop9958
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Tillamook6523
Curry64710
Grant5236
Lake4557
Harney3498
Wallowa1855
Gilliam631
Sherman581
Wheeler321
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Orange2712965031
Santa Clara1190982098
Kern1093201376
Sacramento1051641693
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Alameda881571668
Ventura811021017
San Joaquin733101394
Contra Costa68976805
Stanislaus623101061
Tulare49830840
Monterey43662382
San Mateo42063570
San Francisco36808546
Santa Barbara34391459
Solano33011253
Merced31919461
Sonoma30071321
Imperial28516729
Kings23017246
Placer22720293
San Luis Obispo21308260
Madera16483242
Santa Cruz16275206
Marin14079227
Yolo13938211
Shasta12175226
Butte12140192
El Dorado10193113
Napa989182
Sutter9445113
Yuba628549
San Benito607463
Lassen570624
Tehama559063
Nevada475575
Tuolumne413967
Humboldt413542
Mendocino412749
Amador366747
Lake348943
Glenn240125
Siskiyou225525
Colusa223616
Calaveras213654
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