Helping Hands for Sisquoc

There were strange noises in the San Diego Zoo’s bird breeding center on March 30, 1983: tape recordings of vulture sounds and the repeated tapping on a large white egg. Keepers were assisting at the first zoo hatching of a rare and precious California condor chick.

Keeper Cyndi Kuehler gently lifted the shell and the chick’s head emerged. To maintain the quiet, no one cheered, but everyone was smiling from ear to ear. Sisquoc was the first to hatch from four eggs taken from the wild, making the months spent searching for condor eggs in cliff nests worth it.

It was a first step to save a species that was just 22 birds away from extinction.

Why They Need You
  • California condors tidy up by eating carcasses. But when hunters use lead bullets and leave their kills behind, condors can swallow the bullets and suffer or die from lead poisoning.
  • Bits of trash, like bottle caps, shards of glass, and pieces of plastic pose a threat: adults bring these “shiny things” back to the nest, which, if eaten, can kill a chick and harm adults as well.
  • Human development has impacted the habitat condors need for foraging, nesting, and roosting.
  • Some people even shoot condors, though it’s been illegal for many years.
  • Climate change can impact wildlife in unexpected ways, like increasing parasites and diseases affecting chick survival.
How We're Helping

We have hatched over 180 California condor chicks at the Safari Park since 1985, when there were only 22 birds left. Our collaborative work has led to over 200 California condors flying free and another 200 birds in breeding facilities.

But the condors need to be monitored for health issues like West Nile Virus and avian influenza; vaccinations are given to the birds when possible. Another constant threat is lead poisoning from eating carcasses contaminated by lead bullets. If the birds show signs of toxicity, they are brought to the animal hospital for care, and returned to the wild when healthy again.

We launched a Condor Cam in 2012 so people around the world can watch condor parents raise their chick from wobbly hatchling to determined fledgling. Combined with birds raised in breeding centers, over 50 condors join the species each year. Even now, every hatchling is critical to the survival of this species.

What You Can Do

For less than one dollar a day you can help us save species around the world.
Will you help wildlife? Take our pledge and help us spread the word.
Celebrate your next birthday, run miles, or host an event to benefit wildlife.

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