First Condor egg laid in Baja California for 70 years.31/05/2006 00:00:00 This week biologists working with the California Condor Recovery Program discovered the first California condor egg laid in Baja California, Mexico since their reintroduction to the Sierra San Pedro de Martir National Park in 2002.
The last documented wild California condor in Mexico was spotted in the late 1930s. The California Condor Recovery Program team joined forces with the Mexican government to reintroduce this species to its native habitat in the pristine mountain range where 11 condors, including this breeding pair, now fly free. The two parents, a 7-year-old female and a 6-year-old male, were introduced as juveniles and have only recently entered breeding age.
‘The occurrence of the first nest and the first egg in the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir confirms that the reintroduction of the Californian condor in Mexico is a story of success,’ said Adrián Fernández Bremauntz, president of Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Ecología (National Institute of Ecology). ‘This is an excellent example of how fruitful collaboration between Mexico and the United States can be when we pool efforts and objectives for the conservation of our shared species.’
‘We had been suspicious of nesting activity over the past month and after repeated attempts in a rugged area of the Sierra San Pedro we finally located the nest 800 feet off the canyon floor,’ said Wallace. ‘It is situated in a deserted golden eagle nest. They made an excellent and spectacular choice.’
Wallace ascended up a near vertical cliff about 75 feet to examine the egg through candling. The egg appears to be fertile with a dark interior and a large air cell that may indicate either it is a 45 to 50 day old viable egg that could hatch in the next few days or the egg is no longer viable and is infected with bacteria. However, since there is no odor and the parents are attentive, biologists remain hopefully the egg will soon hatch at the end of the normal 57 day incubation period.
‘This is a momentous occasion,’ said Mike Wallace, Ph.D., scientist with the Zoological Society of San Diego’s center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES) and the California Condor Recovery Program team leader. ‘It marks the beginning of the breeding phase of the program that we hope will eventually lead to reproductive sustainability in this new population.’
The California Condor Recovery Program is built upon a foundation of private and public partnerships. The focus of the recovery effort is the release of captive reared condors to the wild to ultimately establish two self-sustaining populations, one in California and the other in Arizona. It is expected that the condors reintroduced to Baja California, Mexico may one day unite with the condors in California to form one population. The birds have flown within 15 miles of the U.S. and Mexico border. And in the same week that the egg was discovered, one of the Baja condors flew north over the border into the US for a time.
‘Currently, the Instituto Nacional de Ecología is exploring a better way to give medium and long term continuity to this binational effort, with the aim of attaining a viable population and contribute to the reconstruction of this species’ historic distribution,’ said Fernández Bremauntz.
The recovery program is implemented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in cooperation with the Zoological Society of San Diego, Los Angeles Zoo, Peregrine Fund, Oregon Zoo, Mexican partners including the Instituto Nacional de Ecología and the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas and the Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada, among others. Approximately 128 condors are flying free in the skies above parts of California, Arizona and Mexico, with a total world population of 279 condors including birds at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo, Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey and Oregon Zoo.
The center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES), operated by the not-for-profit Zoological Society of San Diego, participates in conservation and research work around the globe. The Zoological Society also manages the 100-acre San Diego Zoo and the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park (more than half of which has been set aside as protected native species habitat). The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by the Foundation for the Zoological Society of San Diego.