Just three decades ago, there were less than two dozen California condors in the wild, driven to the brink of extinction due to poaching, habitat destruction, and lead poisoning.
Biologists quickly came up with a conservation plan: capture the remaining condors and start breeding them in captivity. They got to work, and today, there are more than 300 condors in the wild and 500 total in the world, including birds still at breeding centers. In March, biologists discovered that a condor released into the wild laid an egg at Utah’s Zion National Park, and earlier this month, they determined that the baby bird — the 1,000th chick to hatch thanks to the California Condor Recovery Program — is still alive and well.
“We’re seeing more chicks born in the wild than we ever have before,” Tim Hauck, condor program manager at the Peregrine Fund, told NPR. “And that’s just a step towards success for the condor and achieving a sustainable population.” The California condor is the largest bird in North America, with an average lifespan of 60 years. Hauck said condors are “very unique” in that they are “extremely personable. They’ll have individual personalities.” Conservation efforts are nowhere near being finished, he told NPR, but he’s excited at the possibility of having a population increase every year. Catherine Garcia