News

Nica
3 minute read
28 Jun 2019
2:17 pm

Flamingos finally flourish, but power lines are their newest enemy

Nica

Reports of birds migrating as far as Namibia are encouraging, but power lines still pose a danger to lesser flamingos' migration patterns.

Flamingos at the Kamfers Dam. Image: Facebook/Dough Harebottle

Reports of solitary young lesser flamingos have been pouring in from across the country as the Kamfers Dam project draws to a close.

Pretoria-based investigator Mike Bolhuis explained that recent lesser flamingo sightings are not from the flamingos that were rescued and released, as these birds were marked with a unique ring.

The fact that the birds were alone means that they may not have been fit enough to make the migration, with cold weather possibly also playing a role.

In January, Kimberley residents and BirdLife Africa flagged thousands of dying lesser flamingo chicks at the Kamfers Dam, which was later attributed to a combination of municipal negligence and debilitating drought. This forced the mothers to leave their chicks and eggs in search of water, resulting in many deaths.

And so, the pilot project began, which sought to fly the chicks out from Kimberley to various rescue and rehabilitation organisations in the country, from Pretoria to KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

ALSO READ: Rescued flamingo chicks will soon be reunited with their feathery friends

The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) in the Western Cape, uShaka Marine World in Durban, and World of Birds in Hout Bay, Owl Rescue Centre, as well as investigator Mike Bolhuis, took in the chicks, and so began a great undertaking – giving the chicks enough nutrients, while ensuring that they experience minimal human contact.

The chicks are currently being fed a combination of Nestum baby food, shrimp, prawns, boiled egg yolks, Beefee powder, raw oils, and vitamins.

A lesser flamingo chick being fed. Image: Facebook/Kimberley SPCA

Ekapa Mining volunteered to fly chicks to Wonderboom airport in Pretoria, where veterinarians collected them for rehabilitation.

Two-hundred chicks were released in the Kamfers Dam in April, and Bolhuis says thanks to SANCCOB, who assisted in cleaning the birds, another two-hundred were released this week.

Bolhuis lamented, however, that the power lines lying near the Kamfers Dam, one of only four breeding sites for the near-threatened species in Africa, are cause for concern, as they tend to cause havoc with the flight path of the flamingos.

He says the power lines belong to Transnet, and appealed to the transport giant to increase the visibility of the power lines by marking them.

“These lines are not visible to any avian species when the sun is situated directly behind the power line as the birds fly towards it, and even less visible at night.

“When flamingos migrate, they do so at night, if tailwinds are favourable and the sky is cloudless,” Bolhuis explained.

Tania Anderson from BirdLife Africa confirmed that at least 30 fatalities owed to the power lines have been witnessed at the Kamfers Dam.

One of many flamingo fatalities, thanks to power lines at the Kamfers Dam. Image: Facebook/Tania Anderson

With 120 lesser flamingo youngsters left at the facility rehabilitating them in Kimberley, Bolhuis has urged any relevant parties to help save them.

A proud Bolhuis did enthuse over a young flamingo named Cyril, from Gauteng, ringed and numbered as 0317, which was released back at Kamfers Dam on May 8.

Cyril travelled 974km from Kimberley to Luderitz in Namibia.

Dr Dough Harebottle told Bolhuis that two more tracker birds have dispersed from Kamfers Dam as well, with one flying in a north-easterly direction towards a pan north of Wesselbron in the Free State, while the other has flown west to the Platfontein Pans in the Northern Cape.

Anyone willing to assist with donations is urged to call Mike Bolhuis’ flamingo project management team. Linja Allen can be reached on 072 011 2335, and Donovan Smith can be called on 082 561 4760.

Donations can also be made to going to BirdLife Africa’s website and selecting the Kamfers Dam’s flamingos donation option.

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