The conservation of the California condor has been riddled with challenges, but for the first time in over a century, a condor egg has been laid in central California. Biologists at Pinnacles National Monument confirmed the news after hiking to the site on Friday.
This is big news for the bird species whose numbers had dropped to only 22 in 1982 and was consequently placed on a captive-breeding program. The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates a total of 600 condors roamed the wild in 1890, but as human population increased condor population did the opposite. Occasional sport shooting, declines in food sources and poisoning were some of the causes of death leading to the establishment of the California Condor Recovery Program in 1975.
By 1987, the last wild condor had been transported to the San Diego Wild Animal Park and captive breeding began. Unanticipated success built the population up to 63 in 1992 when the program began to reintroduce the birds back to their habitats. By April 2000, 62 of the 157 condors were once again in the wild, soaring above California and Arizona’s terrain.
Despite impressive progress, run-ins with power lines and lead poisoning were serious issues for concern. Last May, two condors were recaptured due to illness symptoms and were found to have been shot. In addition to wounds, the birds were found to be suffering from lead ammunition found in carrion they had scavenged. After intensive care, one survived and is thriving, while the other did not.
The condor’s path for survival has always and might continue to be a struggle, but, for the first time in 100 years, the biologists at Pinnacles National Monument can finally get egg-cited.