With only 500 California condors left in the world, the Los Angeles Zoo has spent the past 30 years feverishly searching for a way to reverse the decline of California’s state bird. Now, conservationists with the Zoo announced Monday that a breakthrough in breeding techniques could save the dying species.
The technique involves allowing adult birds to foster several chicks at once, Interim Director Denise Verret said.
“It’s resourceful advancements such as this from our dedicated animal care staff that continues to showcase the level of commitment the zoo has to California condor preservation,” Verret said. “For over 30 years, we have championed the survival of this species on behalf of our fellow Angelenos, and I look forward to the future of condor conservation as we share this knowledge with our peers.”
While this approach might seem like a no-brainer to any parent with more than one child, it’s taken years of research and experimentation to get here, Verret said. Chicks are usually raised by experienced foster condors, but whenever there are more chicks than there are foster condors available, a selection of chicks will be hand-raised by staff. Though they may grow up healthy, staff-raised chicks are poorly suited to adapt to conditions in the wild.
“Allowing our condor parents to raise two chicks at the same time is a breakthrough that our talented staff has developed to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to reestablish a sustainable population of California condors in the wild,” Mike Maxcy, curator of birds at the Los Angeles Zoo, said. “The six chicks born this year will now have a better chance at adapting to the wild when they are older.”
The six chicks from the 2019 breeding season are currently being raised at the L.A. Zoo for the next two years under the care of foster condor parents, with the goal of eventually being returned to the wild. They could someday live somewhere in Big Sur, Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge or Pinnacles National Park.