Can you imagine living inside a large Redwood Tree with fire raging around you? and not understanding what is happening? That is what happened to little Iniko who was born on the 25th of April 2020. On 20 August the Dolan Fire at Big Sur consumed the area around its natal tree while Iniko was inside. Iniko was not yet four months old.
Some of you may remember the Dolan Fire. The fire at the Los Padres National Forest at Big Sur, California was first reported on 18 August 2020. It was not declared as being fully contained until 31 December 2020. The cause remains unknown although there are suspicions that it was arson. It was devastating to the entire area.
The impact on both human and non-human life was horrific. The fire destroyed 124,924 acres of Los Padres National Forest. The fire killed eleven of the condors (or 10% of the entire endangered population). #167 Kingpin, Iniko’s father and Redwood Queen’s mate is missing and is presumed dead; he has not returned to the area.
Condors have a long lifespan, approximately sixty years. The condors reach breeding age at five or six years and once they find a mate, they will be bonded together for life unless one of them dies.
California condors are the largest of the flying birds in North American with a wing span of up to three metres or ten feet. Like other large flying birds, the California Condor glides on thermals (air currents) and has been seen flying as high as 4.57 metres or 15,000 feet. The majority of the California condors life in California, Baja California, Mexico, Utah, and Arizona.
The condors, vultures, are easily recognized. Their bald head is a bright red-orange colour when mature with a black body and white triangles under their wings. They are known to travel up to 240 kilometres or 150 miles to find carrion (dead animals). Many people call them the ‘nature’s clean up crew’. Their baldness allows them to stay clean and their unique immune system means that they do not get sick when eating dead animals
Condors have nests inside trees. on the sides of cliffs, or in caves. They do not use nesting material but lay an egg, every other year, on the floor of the tree or cave. Both parents help with the incubation and feeding of the young who fledge at the age of five or six months.
Of the condors in the Dolan fire, Red Queen and her daughter, Iniko, made headlines when the firefighters could not reach the nearly four month old baby because the large Redwood tree Iniko was in was unstable. The name Iniko means ‘born in troubled times’ and it certainly was that.
Here is a short video summary of Iniko’s life. You can hear the fire around the tree and see the attack on the tree by a Condor named Ninja.
This video shows the rescue of Iniko.
Today, Iniko is in the care of the Los Angeles Zoo. She will be returned to the wild in 2021. Isn’t that amazing news?
Redwood Queen was born in the Los Angeles Zoo in 1998. She is condor #190 and was released into the wild in 1998. As a juvenile she was constantly harassed and was, according to sightings, the last one allowed to eat. Because of her low status she did not find a mate til later. Luckily, Kingpin #167 was attracted to her. Kingpin #167 was the most dominant male in the Big Sur colony, and Redwood Queen’s status among the group went from lowest to highest. Redwood Queen laid the first documented egg for a California condor. Kingpin and Redwood Queen fostered one condor and had five biological children- Kodama #646 (2012), Liberty #753 (2014), Princess #799 (2015), Pasquale #914 (2018), and Iniko #1031 (2020).
It was announced yesterday that Redwood Queen has found a new mate. He is Phoenix #477 and the pair have an egg in the Redwood tree where Iniko was born. Life is returning to the old Redwood forest with Redwood Queen who is twenty-three years old.This and the upcoming release of Iniko are bringing joy to all who worried about that deadly fire on the Big Sur California condor community. Here is the video showing Redwood Queen with her new mate and their egg.
Join with everyone in the celebration of this momentous occasion and have a fabulous Saturday wherever you are. Life is returning to the old Redwood forest with Redwood Queen who is twenty-three years old.
Thank you to the Ventana Wildlife Society who take care of the California Condors. If you like condors then check out their website! There is lots of information and updates. You can find them at:
They also have several streaming cams including this one at Big Sur: