/ 13 August 2008

Officials suspended in N Cape flamingo flap

The Northern Cape conservation authority was tight-lipped on Wednesday on why three senior conservation officials have been suspended.

One of them is renowned ornithologist Mark Anderson, who is known for his efforts to establish and protect a colony of lesser flamingos at Kamfers Dam outside Kimberley.

A spokesperson for the Northern Cape department of environment and conservation, OB Philips, said the ”precautionary suspension” of the three officials concerned is an internal matter at this stage.

”The MEC [provincial minister], PW Saaiman, will, if need be, act as the appeal authority in this matter and cannot there for comment at this stage.”

Philips said Saaiman and the department have always supported the flamingo project and that ”nothing has changed”.

The other two men suspended are deputy director of conservation Julius Koen and Eric Hermann of the department’s scientific services.

Reports suggest that Anderson and the others might have been suspended for their efforts to protect the flamingos at Kamfers Dam as officials, and their alleged personal link to a ”Save the Flamingo” campaign that was recently launched.

According to the ”Save the Flamingo” website, it is a non-profit organisation that has positive solutions for the problems facing Kamfers Dam, but it needs support from around the world to help persuade local authorities to take seriously the threats facing the water body.

Various attempts by conservationists to highlight the ”raw sewerage” threat at the dam, which originates from the nearby Homevale sewerage plant, have been made in the past.

The Kamfers Dam situation recently made headlines again when a housing development project near the dam, worth an estimated R2-billion and apparently one of the biggest in the Northern Cape, was announced.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Northern Cape has expressed disappointment over the suspension of the officials.

”The DA would like to question the motives for these suspensions,” said spokesperson Chris Liebenberg. ”The question is: Was their suspension politically motivated and, if so, why?”

It is estimated that Kamfers Dam supports the largest permanent population of lesser flamingos in Southern Africa, which at times numbers up to about 60 000 individual birds. — Sapa