From Ventana Wildlife Society
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
March 6, 2014
Contact: Kelly Sorenson, Executive Director
Ventana Wildlife Society
First Condor Egg Laid This Year on Big Sur Coast Found Crushed
Big Sur, California – Biologists with Ventana Wildlife Society’s Condor Restoration Program discovered the crushed remains of a thin-shelled condor egg during a routine nest check on Thursday, February 27. The field team gave the condor pair a fake egg, made to look and feel exactly like the real one, in hopes that they continue caring for the egg long enough to bring back an egg from captivity to hatch in the wild. Female condor #222 laid the thin-shelled egg and, unfortunately, had already abandoned the nest before biologists were able to provide the fake egg.
Last year, female condor #171, laid an egg that was immediately crushed due to eggshell thinning but biologists at that time were able to give the fake egg in time (see photos provided). Biologists then returned with an egg in the process of hatching two months later and swapped out the fake egg so that the condor pair could raise a chick, which was successful. Unfortunately, condor #222 has only one more chance to reproduce this year but only if she lays another egg, called replacement clutching.
Eggshell thinning was first documented by a team of scientists led by Joe Burnett of Ventana Wildlife Society and published in the journal The Condor last year. As it turns out, many of the coastal dwelling female condors, as is the case for this one, lay thin-shelled eggs, which is most likely a result of exposure to DDE, a harmful breakdown chemical of DDT found in the marine food web. Condors regularly scavenge on the carcasses of Sea Lions, which can harbor dangerous levels of DDE and other marine contaminants. “We found that condor eggshells in Big Sur averaged 34% thinner than eggshells from the inland population in southern California”, said Joe Burnett.
Eggshell thinning is a significant problem but one that is going away without the need for additional regulations. In a majority of cases, eggshell thinning has led to failure, resulting in lower than normal hatching success, a level too low to sustain the population. Researchers remain optimistic despite the recent failures because data strongly suggests that DDE levels are slowly dropping in the California marine food web. Furthermore, biologists are confident in the techniques used to help breeding pairs with their egg problems until eggshells return to normal.
The Society’s Executive Director, Kelly Sorenson said, “the coast is critically important to wild condors because of low lead exposure from spent ammunition. What’s most important from a recovery standpoint is for condors to survive year after year and in time their eggs will return to normal.” “The problems condors face associated with lead poisoning far outweighs the problems we’re seeing of thin-shelled eggs on the coast”, said Joe Burnett.
Visit http://www.ventanaws.org/pressroom/index.htm to view this press release online and for press ready photos.
Condor #171 with her crushed egg in the foreground as discovered by VWS biologists in 2013.
VWS biologists immediately switched the crushed egg with an artificial egg and Condor #171 accepted it. Two months later she also accepted an egg getting ready to hatch. This was a remarkable event that allowed for a chick to be raised in the wild despite the problems associated with eggshell thinning.
ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA CONDOR:
In 1987, the last wild California condor was taken into captivity to join the twenty-six remaining condors, in an attempt to bolster the population through a captive breeding program. Through the effort of California zoos and the Ventana Wildlife Society there are now about 232 California condors in the wild. For more than twenty years, Ventana Wildlife Society has made it a mission to save the bird from extinction by regularly trapping and treating condors suffering from high blood levels of lead. Prompt treatment has saved the lives of several birds in the flock. They monitor nests to ensure the greatest protection possible from potential threats to productivity. In 2013, Jerry Brown, Governor of California signed into law a phase out of lead ammunition throughout the state for all hunting. Lead from spent ammunition is the most significant problem for California condors and this new law gives hope for condor survival in the future; however, the new law, AB711, does not go into effect until 2019.
ABOUT VENTANA WILDLIFE SOCIETY:
Founded in 1977, Ventana Wildlife Society led the way to successful reintroduction of the Bald Eagle and the California Condor, two of the most iconic birds in the world, to native habitats in central California. Through the course of their work, they developed an organizational culture that strongly values science, education and collaboration and regularly found ways for both wildlife and people to benefit from one another. VWS recovers individual species and tracks the populations of many others so that conservation can be timely as well as effective. Focusing on youth education, we better ensure that future generations have the willingness and capacity to help wildlife. Our vision is to have a society who cares for and supports wildlife across the planet, particularly in California. http://www.ventanaws.org , http://www.mycondor.org