After the California condor came dangerously close to extinction 30 years ago, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has two new hopeful additions to the protected population.
Two recently laid condor eggs are now under the watchful eyes of zookeepers, marking the kickoff of the 2015 breeding season.
On Friday, the zoo sent out pictures of senior keeper Debbie Marlow holding a 2-week-old egg up to a warm light – a process called candling, where they check the air cell, position of the embryo and blood vessel development.
She then discovered the egg weighed 249 grams, a 14 percent weight loss from the previous check. But unlike with newly born zoo babies, who they hope will gain weight, the loss is a good thing. The zoo says it means the fluids inside the egg are decreasing and the chick is growing at a healthy clip.
"All eggs lose weight as they develop," said Marlow. "It seems counterintuitive because as the chick grows you would expect there to be a weight gain, but egg shells are porous and moisture is lost through the shell by evaporation during the incubation process."
It’ll be a warm little life in the incubator until the chick is ready to “pip,” or emerge from its shell. That typically happens about 55 days after it’s laid.
Animal care staff takes condor eggs out of their mother’s nest to monitor their growth and replace them with artificial eggs so the mother bird is not concerned or confused. But when the chick is ready to pip, staff puts the real egg back into the next so the parents can help it hatch.
The zoo says in the 1980s only 22 condors were left in the world. Now, there are more than 400, more than half of which are in California, Arizona and Baja California, Mexico. The Safari Park has hatched 185 chicks and released more than 80 birds into the wild.