California condors from the wild turn 30 - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

California condors from the wild turn 30

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The 30th birthday of three of the first four California condors hatched in a zoo was celebrated Tuesday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

When Sespe, Sisquoc and Almiyi came out of their shells, only 22 of the giant birds were believed to be left in the world. They've since formed the foundation of a breeding program that has resulted in the population growing to over 400, park officials said.

"It's a very significant event, because when these eggs were pulled from the wild there was a lot of controversy," said Don Sterner, an animal care manager at the Safari Park. "Once these birds became established and they adjusted well, they started breeding and it became known that we could save them."

Sespe is the only one of the three currently on exhibit at the park. Sisquoc is taking care of a recently hatched chick, and Almiyi is in a condor breeding program. Park officials didn't reveal the fate of the fourth bird.

They said the condors were given a special cake made of cardboard and filled with treats for the birds to tear open and enjoy -- mice, rats, meatballs and beef spleen -- for the birthday celebration.

More than 170 condor chicks have hatched at the park, with 80 released into the wild. Condors roam California, Arizona and Baja California.

The program that helped the species recover was created by the San Diego Zoo and Los Angeles Zoo. The effort now includes the Oregon Zoo and The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey.

Additionally, the birds can be viewed by patrons of zoos in Santa Barbara and Mexico City.

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