Allison Alberts, director of Conservation and Research for the San Diego Zoological Society, discussed the history and current state of the California Condor Recovery Program in a lecture on Wednesday, Jan. 16.
In 1987, North America’s largest bird, the California condor, had a dwindling population of 27 birds, and the program was begun that year at the request of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, 298 members of this species exist, 144 of them living in the wild, according to the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Species.
Shortly after the mandate was given, the existing condor population was brought into captivity at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Los Angeles Zoo. The USFWS program stipulated that the birds be reintroduced to the wild in three distinct populations, 150 birds in each, with release sites in California, Arizona and Mexico; an intensive breeding program ensued and by 1992 the species’ population had doubled. By 2003, the first condors released into the wild in California began to breed. A part of the program’s success could be attributed to the bird’s reproductive habits.
‘Condor’s practice [involves] what is known as double-clutching, meaning that if their first egg goes missing, then within 25 to 30 days they [will] lay another egg,’ Alberts explained. This practice allowed researchers the benefit of having each bird produce two eggs