PORTLAND, OR (AP/KPTV) — The California condors have laid nine eggs so far this year at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, the Oregon Zoo announced Tuesday.

The zoo says this is the fastest start in its 18-year effort to help bring back the condors from the brink of extinction.

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“It’s still early in the season, and we’re not going to count any condors before they’re hatched,” said Dr. Kelly Flaminio, who oversees the Oregon Zoo’s condor recovery efforts. “Still, a start like this gives us great hope that we’ll be able to help bolster wild condor numbers — especially after last year’s devastating wildfires.”

The first egg arrived on Jan. 15. The month ended with a flurry, according to the zoo, when three different condors laid eggs on Jan. 31.

The most recent egg was on Feb. 7.

The zoo says the conservation center should see its first chick sometime in March.

“Condors typically lay only one egg a year, and with scarcely more than 500 of these birds on the planet, each new egg is critical for the species’ survival,” Flaminio said.

Condor Portrait – Oregon Zoo The California condor was one of the original animals included on the 1973 Endangered Species Act and is classified as critically endangered. Conservationists say each new condor egg is an important step in the effort to save this species from extinction. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.

The California condor was included on the Endangered Species Act back in 1973 and is classified as critically endangered.

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According to the zoo, there were only 22 birds in the wild in 1982, and by 1987, the last condors were brought into human care in an attempt to save the species from extinction.

The zoo said thanks to breeding programs like theirs, condor numbers now total around 500 birds. Most of those birds of flying free.

In August, a refuge for condors was destroyed by a wildfire in the Los Padres National Forest northwest of Los Angeles.

The sanctuary lost pens, a research building, and other facilities. The nonprofit Ventana Wildlife Society of Monterey, which ran the facility, was seeking $500,000 in donations to rebuild it.

There weren’t any people or condors at the facility when it burned, society Executive Director Kelly Sorenson told the Mercury News.

To learn more about the California condors, visit oregonzoo.org/discover/animals/california-condor.

 

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and KPTV/CNN contributed to this report.)