Two adorable condor chicks hatched last week at the San Diego Zoo. That's news in its own right given that California condors are an endangered species, but these baby birds are particularly special: Typically, condor chicks are hatched with the help of a human donning a condor hand puppet. But these chicks were assisted in the process with the help of real live condor parents!
Let's pause for a second and let that information sink in: Animals can be raised without the direct aid of humans! How strange! How novel!
The curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Michael Mace, recently received a Recovery Champion award (given by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s southwest region) in part for his efforts to preserve and recover California condors. If you consider the growth of the condor population since he began the recovery program (capturing birds for captive breeding and releasing them into the wild) some 30 years ago, you can't help but be impressed. In 1982, there were only 22 birds left in the wild; as of January 31, there were 369 California condors, including 192 in the wild!
Because of the success of the recovery program over the years, now there's less need to puppet-rear baby condors because parents are beginning to do the job more successfully. And now that the population has reached a safer level than it had been in the past, zookeepers are trying to get more parents in the program to do this.
Currently at the zoo, four other eggs are in the incubator: one of those will be parent-reared. The other three will be puppet-reared and released in the wild. The zoo reports that the program has hatched 165 chicks and released 80 birds into the wild. The birds are still endangered, of course, but these numbers suggest their advocates are moving in the right direction.
To see an adorable California condor chick hatching from its egg with the help of a parent, click the link!
Image via NBC