To say California condors were on the brink of extinction in the 1980s is not hyperbole. A grand total of 22 lived in the wild, which makes a new milestone all the more remarkable. Researchers say chick No. 1,000 has hatched in Utah's Zion National Park, reports Smithsonian. “When we confirmed it ... it was just this feeling of overwhelming joy,” Janice Stroud-Settles, a wildlife biologist at the park, tells the Guardian. California condors are the largest bird in North America, but pollution, hunting, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction all but wiped them out in the 20th century. Under the California Condor Recovery Program, wildlife officials captured condors in the wild for a breeding program, then began releasing birds into the wild.
In fact, the parents of chick No. 1,000—condor 429 and condor 523—were each born in captivity but eventually released. When researchers keeping an eye on them noticed that the couple seemed to be taking turns scavenging for food, they suspected a hatchling might have joined the nest. Confirmation of the chick is a "monumental milestone in the condor recovery program," says Ross Norvell of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in a news release. Roughly half of the 1,000 California condors now in existence live in the wild. (An endangered porpoise now numbers in the single digits.)