Kimberley’s flamingo chicks bunking with sharks

Severe heat and low water levels at Kamfers Dam outside Kimberley, in the Northern Cape, has led to almost 2000 Lesser Flamingo fledglings finding a temporary homes across the country.

The Kimberley branch of the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) reached out to several organisations, one of which was Durban’s uShaka Sea World Director, Tony McEwan, IOLreported on Tuesday.

uShaka is now the temporary home for 250 chicks where they will be hand raised by the staff at uShaka.

The chicks had to be relocated across the country after both the chicks and eggs had been abandoned by their parents at Kamfers Dam because of intense heat and low water levels.

According to BirdLife SA chief executive Mark Anderson who spoke to radio show Cape Talk on Monday evening, Kamfers Dam has been drying at a great rate, a problem as the dam is home to the biggest population of Lesser Flamingos.

“Kimberly is very dry. They’ve had about 50ml of rain since last April … There’s been little rain and lots of evaporation.”

Because of the heat, the dam requires water pumped from the municipality. However, as Anderson pointed out on Cape Talk, there are infrastructure problems which has seen raw sewage flow into the veld.

“This story has really gone global because it is drawing attention to the real problem. The drought is one thing but the main problem is the Sol Plaatje municipality, the Kimberley municipality, that has a sewage works that has been malfunctioning for the better part of a decade. Little treated water is flowing into the sewage works and none is flowing out, and this is the main source of water for Kamfers Dam,” explained Anderson.

When asked about the situation with the flamingo at Kamfers Dam, municipality spokesperson Sello Matsie told the Mail & Guardian there had been “challenges”. “But the municipality has not been sitting on its hands,” said Matsie.

However, he wanted to note that the dam is on private property, and the municipality does not have a contract to supply it with water from its waste treatment plants.

The water from the waste treatment plant first goes to the mines, with the remainder of the water distributed to farms, like the one that is home to Kamfers Dam.

According to Matsie, the municipality instituted an emergency intervention at waste treatment plants in 2008 after ageing infrastructure could not handle the 40 megalitres of water that was flowing into the plant which only had a 37 megalitre capacity.

Several million rand was then spent on refurbishing the waste treatment plants over the last 10 years, but over time, the pipelines transporting the water have also corroded. Matsie said a contractor is working on repairing the pipeline which should be completed by June this year.

Anderson said it is currently breeding season for the Flamingos and conservationists are monitoring the dam to help the remaining eggs and chicks.

“The birds don’t breed every year,” said Anderson. “The birds need substantial water before they breed.”

READ MORE: Threatened flamingos breed on man-made island


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Gemma Ritchie
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