SAN DIEGO — A California condor Thursday laid the first egg ever produced in captivity by a pair of the endangered birds, the San Diego Wild Animal Park said.
If the egg hatches at the end of its two-month incubation, it will be the first California condor ever conceived in captivity and give a big boost to efforts to save the species, officials said. Only 27 of the birds exist, all in captivity, park spokesman Tom Hanscom said.
Biologists moved the egg from the nest to an incubator, according to plan, Hanscom said. The egg may not produce an offspring because the female is old and her mate, a young male, may be sexually immature, officials cautioned.
By taking the egg from its parents at an early point, scientists hope to induce the pair to "double-clutch," or produce a second egg to replace the lost one.
California condors have been decimated in the wild by lead poisoning, caused by eating lead shot in animal carcasses, the principle source of food for the large, vulture-like birds, biologists said.
The last California condor in the wild was captured and brought to the Wild Animal Park on April 3, 1987, in a last bid to restore the vanishing species.
Fourteen of the birds are kept at the San Diego park in enclosures not on view to the public. The 13 others are similarly housed at the Los Angeles Zoo.
Since 1981, scientists have hatched 13 condors in captivity from eggs taken in the wild.