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Condor Hatches at Wild Animal Park : Prognosis Good as Chick’s Mother Is Netted in Wild, Brought to S.D.

Times Staff Writer

A California condor egg hatched at the San Diego Wild Animal Park on Friday, at the same time that the new baby’s mother was being driven to the animal preserve after being captured Thursday in the giant bird’s federally protected sanctuary northwest of Los Angeles.

The hatching of the latest condor and the capture of its mother raises to 24 the number being bred at the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos for eventual release into the wild. Three male condors remain in the sanctuary, which straddles Ventura and Kern counties.

The chick excreted its yolk sac successfully soon after hatching, an important sign that it is healthy, Tom Hanscom, Wild Animal Park spokesman, said Friday. Hanscom said that the condor gulped its first meal of hairless mice, showing the strongest feeding responses of the 14 chicks hatched at the park since 1983. The egg is the first hatched there since June, 1985.

The baby was named Nojoqui, a Chumash Indian name meaning meadow. The tribe inhabited the area that is now the condor’s sanctuary. Nojoqui will be kept in a specially heated nursery for several weeks and will be fed using a hand-held puppet that resembles a condor’s head. The puppet is used so the bird will avoid all human contact, which could harm its chances for survival when it is eventually released.

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The 24 condors now in captivity are divided equally between the Los Angeles and San Diego zoos, based on genetic diversity to maximize future breeding, and to avoid catastrophe should disease strike one of the zoos. The birds are kept away from direct human contact as much as possible.

Nojoqui’s egg was flown to the Wild Animal Park April 15 after condor scientists discovered it at a nesting site in the sanctuary. The egg was the second this season from AC-8 and her mate, AC-9, who remains in the wild. Their first egg was found cracked when scientists reached it in early March.

AC-8 was captured Thursday by scientists intending only to replace her non-functioning transmitters, which had frustrated attempts to keep track of her movements, and then release her. Although officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the two zoos want to bring all remaining condors into temporary captivity, the National Audubon Society has a federal court injunction prohibiting the action, pending further legal battles.

However, lawyers for the society and for Fish and Wildlife went before a federal judge in Washington late Friday and agreed to modify the injunction to permit the temporary removal of AC-8 to the Wild Animal Park, Jesse Grantham, spokesman for the National Audubon Society in Ventura, said Friday.

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Grantham said that terms of the modification require the Condor Recovery Team to meet by the end of July and decide whether AC-9 should also be captured and mated with AC-8 in captivity or whether the female should be released. That team has not met for more than a year, and new members would have to be appointed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.


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