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Happy birthday, condor chick.

Happy birthday, condor chick

This is a face only a condor mom -- or a conservationist -- could love. It belongs to Molloko, the first California condor chick conceived and hatched in captivity. The chick, whose sex is yet to be determined, is a rare bird indeed. Counting this birth, there are only 28 California condors living, all of which reside at the San Diego Wild Animal Park or the Los Angeles Zoo.

While condors once ruled the western skies, the birds have soared close to extinction in modern times -- partly due to feeding on leadshot-poisoned carcasses abandoned by hunters as well as other hazards. The fate of some condors remains a mystery, since a few have disappeared without a trace. The 28 survivors are part of a controversial captive breeding program designed to increase their numbers before researchers begin their release in 1992. The last bird in the wild was captured one year ago (SN: 4/25/87, p.263).

Molloko, whose name comes from the Indian word for the condor species, was helped out of its shell April 29 (see inset), nearly three days after the chick began to crack it open. According to a Wild Animal Park spokeswoman, Molloko is healthy and is getting stronger every day. At present there are four breeding-age pairs of California condors, but only Molloko's parents have been in the mood to court. They have one more week in the breeding season to lay another egg this year. Thirteen chicks already have been born in captivity from eggs taken from the wild. Researchers hope 200 chicks will hatch in the next 10 years.

Late this summer, scientists plan to release radio-tagged Andean condors, a related and less critically endangered species, in California to scout out the possible environmental hazards their California cousins may encounter.
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Title Annotation:Molloko
Author:Weisburd, Stefi
Publication:Science News
Date:May 7, 1988
Words:300
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