Conservationists working to release and maintain populations of the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) in the wild in Baja California, Mexico have confirmed the existence of a young condor chick that hatched and fledged in the wild. The young chick, is the first of its kind to be reared in the wild in Mexico for almost 80 years, and marks a significant step in the recovery of this species. The chick is believed to have been hatched at a very remote nest site in the spring of 2012 but had not been seen before by researchers.
"We thought that the pair had produced a chick because they were very protective of the area last spring," said Michael Wallace, recovery specialist for San Diego Zoo Global's Institute for Conservation Research. "The nest area was impossible for us to access and until yesterday the chick was essentially a phantom, an individual that we thought was out there but whose existence had not been proven."
The chick was seen at a feeding site managed by conservationists working with COSTASALVAJE, a conservation group working with San Diego Zoo Global to manage the endangered species in the area.
"It was incredible to see this youngster come into the feeding site with its parents." Said Juan Vargas, conservation specialist for COSTASALVAJE. "We are all so excited to see this chick and know that condors are reproducing again in Mexico."
California condor chicks typically stay with their parents for an extended period of time. Youngsters do not leave the nest until they are fully feathered, or "fledged", and continue to remain with adults until they are over a year in age.
The California Condor Recovery Program is implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, zoos in the U.S. and Mexico, and U.S., Mexican government agencies, including SEMARNET, CONANP and INE, and the non-profit organization COSTASALVAJE. Current funding support is provided by USFWS, IUCN Save Our Species Fund, Marisla Foundation and San Diego Zoo Global.
Although listed by the federal government as an endangered species in 1967, the California condor population continued to decline, reaching a critical low of less than two dozen birds. In 1982, the condor breeding program was successfully established at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Los Angeles Zoo. Today, two additional breeding centers are assisting with the recovery of the species at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey and the Oregon Zoo. In addition, condors are part of an education programme that allows guests at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Santa Barbara Zoo and Mexico City's Chapultepec Zoo to see North America's largest bird up close.
COSTASALVAjE is an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife that has been partnering with the San Diego Zoo to facilitate the success of the condor reintroduction program in Mexico since 2008.
The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction. The Conservancy makes possible the wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) of the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and international field programs in more than 35 countries. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.