Bird curators depending on Eastern Airlines to fly rare Andean condor eggs to Los Angeles had to scramble for alternatives because of the machinists’ strike.
Eastern had been giving Miami’s Metrozoo free tickets for an incubator and a zookeeper since the start of a project a year ago to save the related California condor from extinction. Only 28 of the huge California birds survive, all in captivity.
Three eggs were sent. But when a fourth egg was laid on Monday, Eastern was not flying to California, and other flights to the West Coast were heavily booked.
“It was a mess. We needed to get it out fast, the earlier the better,” said bird curator Ron Johnson. “As the embryo grows, there is more chance of damage from movement.”
Metrozoo’s Ellen Unger spent most of Monday trying to get an airline to fly a keeper with the one foot-high, cube-shaped incubator.
Only Pan Am would even discuss the zoo’s plight, Unger said. The airline agreed to give Metrozoo first-class tickets on an early morning flight today.
The 6.6-ounce egg should hatch in about six weeks. If the bird is a female, it will be released on the cliffs in the Los Padres National Forest in about nine months and monitored by radio transmitters.
“The idea is to find out about how Andean condors live before risking the California birds,” Johnson said. After several years, some of the California condors will be released in areas the study indicated were safe.