Second Nest Suspected in Sierra San Pedro de Martir
Wearing a backpack filled with candling equipment and a harness, Juan Vargas, San Diego Zoo field biologist, rappelled 330 feet down a rocky cliff on the hunt for a rare and precious egg in Mexico’s wilderness.
On Wednesday, April 8, Vargas braved the heights and found the precious egg nestled in a cavity in the Sierra San Pedro de Martir National Park in Baja California, Mexico. It is only the third egg to be laid by a California condor in Mexico since the San Diego Zoo reintroduced this critically endangered species to the area in 2002.
Documenting the egg search from another cliff, Mike Wallace, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research scientist and California Condor Recovery Program team leader, said this condor pair laid an egg in the same nest in 2008, but the egg did not hatch.
“We suspected condor No. 284 laid an egg when she and her partner began making frequent trips to the area of the cave,” said Wallace. “We were excited when it was confirmed that the egg was fertile and may hatch in a couple of weeks.
The first condor pair, No. 261 and 217, to lay an egg in Mexico is also suspected of having an egg. If confirmed, this would be a historic event for conservation efforts. Prior to the 2002 reintroduction of this bird the last documented wild California condor in Mexico was spotted in the late 1930s. The California Condor Recovery Program joined forces with the Mexican government to reintroduce this species to its native habitat in the pristine mountain range where 15 condors now fly free.
The pair’s first egg was laid in 2007, but the chick disappeared from the nest one month later and was never found.
Condors reach breeding age at 5 years old. The condors in Baja California are just reaching maturity. Wallace believes additional pairs may begin to breed and lay eggs in 2010. An egg hatches after 57 days of incubation. A chick takes its first flight at approximately 6 months old, but it remains under the watchful eye of its parents for another two years.
The California Condor Recovery Program is implemented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, zoos in the U.S. and Mexico, as well as U.S. and Mexican government agencies such as the Instituto Nacional de Ecología and NGOs. The world population of California condors is now more than 320 birds, half of which are flying free in the skies above California, Arizona and Baja California, Mexico. The condor breeding centers include the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo, The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey and Oregon Zoo.
The 100-acre San Diego Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of endangered species and their habitats. The organization focuses on conservation and research work around the globe, educates millions of individuals a year about wildlife and maintains accredited horticultural, animal, library and photo collections. The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, which includes a 900-acre native species reserve, and the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.
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