San Diego/ Parks & Nature
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Published on April 12, 2024
San Diego Zoo Safari Park Celebrates Hatching of 250th California Condor in Conservation MilestoneSource: San Diego Zoo

In an achievement hailed as a beacon of conservation success, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park celebrated the hatching of its 250th California condor chick since the inception of their breeding program. This landmark event marks a ray of hope for the critically endangered species teetering on the brink of extinction mere decades ago. According to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, the chick, named Emaay—a Kumeyaay word for "sky"—arrived in the world on March 16, much to the delight of its conservationists.

The proud parents, Xol-Xol and Mexwe, have had their nesting experience closely monitored by the zoo's wildlife care team. Xol-Xol, interestingly, was the first condor to be taken under human care in 1982 under the California Condor Recovery Program. Having fathered 41 chicks since 1993, Xol-Xol has been instrumental in the efforts to repopulate this majestic species. It is reported by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance that the chick, much anticipated, was suspected of being malpositioned prior to hatching, prompting an incubation and CT imaging intervention to ensure its safe arrival.

Nora Willis, a senior wildlife care specialist with the zoo, expressed her enthusiasm in a statement obtained by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. "Reaching this milestone feels incredible," she said, "Seeing the success that the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has had—and the success of the California Condor Recovery Program as a whole—is really inspiring. There’s still a long way to go but being part of this and helping the species recover is life changing.” Emaay will spread its wings among the wild native population sometime in 2025.

The California condor, still listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has seen a remarkable turnaround since the days when only 22 of their kind remained. Today, more than 560 condors exist, with over half of them soaring free. The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and its multiple conservation partners, including in Mexico, manage reintroduction sites across the U.S. and in the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park. Introduced into five reintroduction sites across the United States and northern Baja California, Mexico, the California condors have become an inspiration for endangered species recovery.

Every year, the growing population is buoyed by adding 50 new California condors, with 12 to 15 hatching in their native habitats. This conservation milestone is a tribute to the close collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Audubon Society, the Los Angeles Zoo, and other crucial stakeholders involved in the California Condor Recovery Program, as well as the innovative techniques pioneered by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and its partners. Major threats such as lead poisoning, habitat loss, and emerging diseases continue to be addressed by these conservation efforts.