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It wasn’t that Topa Topa and a...

Times Staff Writer

It wasn’t that Topa Topa and a South American chick named Chiquita really fought after they moved in together last week, Greater Los Angeles Zoo spokeswoman Lora LaMarca said Tuesday.

“They did OK,” LaMarca said. “Oh, there were some skirmishes. They would fly at each other. That type of thing.”

But Topa Topa, captured as a chick himself 18 years ago and one of 11 California condors at the zoo, never really dug Chiquita, an Andean condorhatched in captivity here only last year.

There was, of course, the age difference.

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And then he has been living

by himself all these years. One gets set in one’s ways.

But if Topa Topa wasn’t exactly turned on by Chiquita, who was introduced to him only to get him used to having company, a zoo biologist noted that he suddenly began showing signs of sexual awareness in playing with a stick.

“He’s always used sticks

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as play toys,” LaMarca said, “but this time it was a little more than that.” She declined to be specific.

In any event, having found that after long years of loneliness Topa Topa could get along reasonably well with another bird (even one from the Andes)

without any serious battles, zoo biologists decided to replace Chiquita with

an unnamed condor who may or may not be to his liking.

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LaMarca said the new live-in companion was captured in early September and is estimated to be about 11 years old. The hope, of course, is that one thing could lead to another and that they could produce a chick of their own.

With only 11 of the birds in the Los Angeles Zoo, 10 in the San Diego Zoo and a mere six still in the wild (three of which are to be captured under permission from federal wildlife officials), one offspring could mean a sharp jump in the imperiled California condor population.

The problem is that no one is certain whether the new roommate is a male or a female.

Topa Topa may know, of course.

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LaMarca said the unnamed bird has shown behavioral signs (whatever those might be) of being a female. But blood tests to determine sex were inconclusive. Another test will be run in December.

In the meantime, she said, Topa Topa is in a flight cage with a blind date of uncertain sexual orientation and two immature female birds for company.

“We can wait,” LaMarca said. “It’s a good thing he’s in with other condors. He has to learn to relate. We’ve got to graduate him from sticks.”


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