Webcam keeps an eye on flamingo chicks

Posted by Laura Grant on December 30, 2008
Posted in Conservation


One of the first of this year’s lesser flamingo hatchlings on Kimberley’s Kamfers Dam. Photo courtesy Save the Flamingo Association

Kimberley’s Kamfers Dam now has a live streaming webcam trained on its lesser flamingos which allows researchers and the general public a rare close-up view of a flamingo breeding colony comprising thousands of birds.

The colony is now well into its second breeding season.

Last year about 9,000 chicks hatched on an S-shaped artificial island specially constructed for the birds in the middle of the dam, making it the only lesser flamingo breeding site in South Africa and one of only four on the whole continent.

This year the breeding season started much earlier than last year – the first egg was reportedly spotted at the end of October – and more chicks are expected, says the Save the Flamingo Association, an environmental non-profit organisation based in Kimberley.

The Save the Flamingo Association is trying to conserve the birds’ Kamfers Dam breeding site which is threatened by deteriorating water quality from effluent spilling from a broken sewerage works and from a proposed massive residential and commercial development on a property adjoining the wetland.

In November the Northern Cape department of tourism, environment and conservation gave the proposed Northgate development the go-ahead. The Save the Flamingo Association has lodged an appeal against this decision, it says in an entry on its Facebook site.

The water quality is the more immediate threat to both the birds and the local human residents. A recent newspaper report said that water quality tests show high levels of faecal coliform bacteria in Kamfers Dam, which poses a risk of waterborne gastroenteritis. The dam water also tested positive for Clostridium, which causes botulism in birds.

Kimberley’s ailing Homevale sewage treatment works is reported to be the source of the effluent in Kamfers Dam. But it is part of a much wider problem in the province. In September, the water affairs and forestry minister Lindiwe Hendricks said in parliament that all the sewage works in the Northern Cape were operating below acceptable standards.

The association says it urgently needs funds to (a) conduct water quality analyses, (b) undertake legal action, (c) maintain the flamingo breeding island, and (c) ensure that Kamfers Dam and the adjoining properties are conserved.

The Save the Flamingo Association has set up an online donation system for anyone interested in contributing towards their work at Kamfers Dam.

Meanwhile, the lesser flamingos at another breeding colony, this time on Tanzania’s Lake Natron, have become the stars of a new Walt Disney film entitled The Crimson Wing – Mystery of the Flamingos.

The more than a million flamingos that gather on the shores of the huge soda lake, create an extraordinary natural spectacle, yet few people visit the area, says Birdlife International. According to filmmaker Matthew Aeberhard, “More people have walked on the moon than have been out on the mudflats where the flamingos have their breeding colonies”.

But, according to BirdLife International, a proposed soda ash plant at Lake Natron and the associated infrastructure may displace and scatter the lesser flamingos.

“They [Natron’s flamingos] could be very heavily impacted by minor developments,” Aeberhard said. “A company starts mining here and the water level may change, the salt balance may change”.

BirdLife International is leading a “Think Pink” campaign to conserve Lake Natron.


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