PORTLAND Two endangered California condors were hatched this week. One got a little help at the Oregon Zoo s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation in rural Clackamas County.

Zookeepers and veterinarians performed an emergency assisted hatch on one of the two little birds Thursday, carefully snipping open sections of its shell.

The chick had become stuck in the wrong position and was unable to move inside its shell. It would have died without help, according to Hova Najarian of the Oregon Zoo.

The other chick was hatched Tuesday without incident.

We only help like this when we have to, said Kelli Walker, the zoo s lead condor keeper. There are so few of these birds in the world that each new chick is incredibly important to the recovery of the species.

The struggling chick was returned to its parents, Atishwin and Ojai, Friday morning after spending the night in an incubator with a feather duster for a surrogate mother, Najarian said. The condor had a rough time from the start. The egg, laid on Jan. 25, had been placed in an incubator while Atishwin and Ojai sat on a dummy egg.

The California condor was original included on the 1973 Endangered Species Act. In 1982, only 22 of the condors remained in the wild, and by 1987, the last condors were taken into captivity in an attempt to save the species, Najarian said.

There are now about 400 California condors. More than 40 chicks have hatched at the Jonsson Center since its captive breeding program began in 2003.

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