Articles Posted in the Conservation category

Webcam keeps an eye on flamingo chicks

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.

Scientists call on Tanzanian government to protect Lake Natron

October 7, 2008
Posted in Conservation

Lesser flamingo on Lake Bogoria in East Africa's Rift Valley.

Lesser flamingo on Lake Bogoria in East Africa. Picture courtesy BirdLife International,

Conservationists have urged the government of Tanzania to protect Lake Natron, the world’s most important lesser flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) breeding site, from a proposed soda ash (sodium bicarbonate) plant.

The Lesser Flamingo population in East Africa – some 1.5-million to 2.5 million birds – accounting for 75% of the global population, is dependent on the lake for its survival, stated 250 scientists from around the world, who had gathered near Cape Town for the 12thPan-African Ornithological Congress (PAOC 12), in a resolution. Read more

Update: development versus Africa’s flamingos

May 6, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The Sunday Times reports that a R2-billion development is planned for Kamfers Dam in the Northern Cape town of Kimberley, the site of the biggest breeding colony of lesser flamingos in South Africa. It is one of only four breeding colonies for this species of bird in the whole of Africa. Environmentalists fear the new development will destroy the breeding colony, which appears to have benefited greatly from the recent building of an artificial island.

Meanwhile, in Tanzania, a state firm has rejected the concerns of environmentalists that a soda ash plant planned for Lake Natron will damage the soda lake’s fragile ecosystem, Reuters reports. Three quarters of the world’s lesser flamingos breed on Lake Natron.

A spokesman for Tanzania’s state-run National Development Corporation (NDC), which is building the plant with an Indian partner, Tata Chemicals, said there were plans to shift the plant 35km from the lakeshore, which would help preserve the birds. But conservationists fear the plant’s operations may kill the algae on which the flamingos feed. The conservationists say that the lesser flamingo could become extinct in five years if its habitat is destroyed, Reuters reports.

Update: Lake Natron flamingoes

February 2, 2008
Posted in Conservation

Communities living around Tanzania’s Lake Natron have publicly opposed a plan to build a soda ash plant in the area. The communities do not believe the proposed factory will provide them with jobs but instead fear they could lose tourism-related employment, which is an important source of income in the area, Birdlife reports.

“It’s our sincere hope that our government will carefully analyse and hear all interested and affected stakeholders views before making a final decision on this issue,” said Lota Melamari, CEO of WCST (Birdlife in Tanzania).

Pink alert for East African flamingos

November 27, 2007
Posted in Green News, Transport

Danger is looming over the horizon for the lesser flamingos of Lake Natron, one of Africa’s most spectacular birdy tourist attractions.

Plans to build a massive soda ash plant on the Rift Valley lake in northern Tanzania, where up to a million of the pink birds breed, have been temporarily halted while the developers, Lake Natron Resources, produce a “new and better environmental statement and consider other sites for soda ash extraction”, BirdLife International reports.
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