Calif. condor egg hatches at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

SAN DIEGO - A California condor egg was successfully hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park this week, zoo officials announced Friday.

The chick is the 185th hatched in a condor recovery program launched in the 1980s, when only 22 of the majestic birds remained in the wild.

"It's great for our organization as a conservation initiative. It is really invigorating for our keepers staff. It's just as good as it gets in this business," said Michael Mace, curator of birds at the Safari Park.

The park has released 80 condors, and officials estimate the population is now over 400, with half flying free in California, Arizona, Utah and Baja California, Mexico.

Animal care staff said they assisted with the hatching when they noticed the embryo in the egg wasn't positioned correctly, making a natural hatch unlikely.

They had to remove a small piece of shell when they observed the chick was ready to hatch. They then placed the egg with foster parents Towich and Sulu, who subsequently hatched the chick.

The egg was one of four produced at the Los Angeles Zoo and transferred to the Safari Park. Condors and eggs are transferred sometimes to diversify the genetics of the bird's population.

Mace said, "We have to genetically manage the population," and the reason is "to diversify the genetics so that they're safe guarded in multiple locations."

The birds that guests see at Condor Ridge will actually stay at the park and never be released into the wild. Some of them are used for breeding, others for educational purposes. The newest addition will be kept in a separate area not visible to the public for about a year before it'll be released into the wild, that's to help it maintain its natural instincts.

The new chick can be viewed on the online Condor Cam at

"The condor program is very complex, and the Condor Cam allows thousands of people to see some of the activities that go on behind the scenes as we prepare chicks for release in the wild," said Mace.

The condors can live up to 60 years and they serve a purpose. They're scavengers, which means they clean up animals that have died.

"In those animals that have died, there are toxins like botulism and anthrax that can flourish," Mace said. "Because if their environments are healthy, that means our environments are healthy as well."

The webcam is run by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Conservancy.

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