Home News Bid to safeguard flamingos’ future

Bid to safeguard flamingos’ future


A dramatic shortage of effluent flowing into Kamfers Dam left the flamingo chicks stranded in the summer heat, abandoned by the parent birds after the nest turrets were left high and dry

Picture: Danie van der Lith

SUSTAINABLE solutions are currently being implemented to safeguard the approximately 5 000 flamingo chicks currently in crèches at Kamfers Dam just outside Kimberley, as well as future breeding events in the area.

Kimberley Ekapa Mining and BirdLife South Africa said yesterday in a joint statement that the private and public sectors were working together to find short-term and sustainable solutions to the problems that threaten Kamfers Dam’s flamingos.

“At a joint meeting held in Kimberley, a number of parties from the private and public sector joined forces to determine short-term, longer-term and sustainable solutions for the lesser flamingo population at Kamfers Dam near Kimberley. These solutions are focused on implementing immediate actions to safeguard the approximately 5 000 chicks currently in crèches at the dam, sustainable solutions for the dam’s flamingos and future breeding events, as well as long-term infrastructure solutions addressing challenges with water supply to the dam,” the statement said yesterday.

“This is a continuation of a collaborative effort when Saam Staan Kimberley and the Kimberley SPCA rescued approximately
1 900 abandoned flamingo chicks and relocated them to accredited bird rehabilitation centres in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape provinces. A dramatic shortage of effluent flowing into Kamfers Dam left the flamingo chicks stranded in the summer heat, abandoned by the parent birds after the nest turrets were left high and dry.

“After Kimberley’s raw sewage is treated to reach compliance levels, the water flows into Kamfers Dam where the internationally acclaimed and highly successful flamingo breeding island is situated. However, challenges experienced at the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality’s sewage pumping stations and pipelines contributed to the shortage of water flowing into the dam, necessitating the rescue efforts.”

The organisations added that good rainfall in the catchment area early in February and dedicated efforts by the Sol Plaatje Municipality, in conjunction with Ekapa Mining, to repair infrastructure to increase volumes of sewage to the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Plant (HWWTP), resulted in the dam level temporarily stabilising and sustaining the adult flamingos and their 5 000 chicks.

“Through continuous monitoring of the situation by ornithologists from BirdLife South Africa, it was determined in late-March that the water level and food supply in the dam was rapidly decreasing due to high levels of evaporation and insufficient inflow of water. There was concern that this could result in another abandonment in the near future. Because of this proactive detection, a short-term solution was developed by the multi-party team.

“Ekapa Mining constructed two crèche ponds of 100m x 10m each on the dry banks of Kamfers Dam. These small ponds have less evaporation than a larger water body. They also ensure a controlled process to provide the water necessary to temporarily sustain the 5 000 chicks until the birds were ready to fledge or long-term solutions were implemented.”

They added that the welfare and health of the chicks was continuously monitored by the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation (DENC), BirdLife South Africa, Saam Staan Kimberley, the Kimberley SPCA and a network of local veterinarians.

Turning their attention to the rescued chicks, the two organisations stated that an action plan for the repatriation of the previously rescued chicks was drafted and presented to the role-players at a meeting in Kimberley.

“The surviving chicks will be returned in batches of 200 to Kimberley SPCA where they will be placed in specifically designed holding pens to acclimatise before being released at Kamfers Dam, once a sustainable water level has been established and it has been determined that the chicks are healthy and disease free.

“The release of the flamingo chicks will be done under the expert guidance of BirdLife South Africa, DENC, the owners of the property, and other parties.

“To prevent a recurrence and ensure a sustainable future for the lesser flamingo population at Kamfers Dam, Ekapa Mining and Sol Plaatje Local Municipality have joined forces to implement a comprehensive infrastructure restoration programme for the municipality’s HWWTP,” they stated, adding that these efforts were starting to pay dividends.

“The combined team managed to repair some of the gravity pipe infrastructure and increased the inflow to the HWWTP from six megalitres to 15 megalitres. Indications are that work being executed by the municipality and an independent contractor on the pressure line from the pumping stations should increase the volume with another 20 megalitres. It is anticipated that this project will be competed by the end of next month.

“Furthermore, under approval from DENC and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), Ekapa Mining excavated a 400m bypass channel around the reed beds to improve the direct inflow of sewage volume into Kamfers Dam. The effect of this immediately stabilised the level of Kamfers Dam as it negated the loss of water that was being absorbed by the Phragmites reeds.

“On Monday, March 11, excellent general rainfall of approximately 120mm in the Kamfers Dam area further alleviated the situation. The dedicated efforts by various parties in conjunction with the excellent rainfall resulted in the crisis being averted for this breeding season. The water level can sustain the population and algae is regenerating as a sustainable food source. The ecosystem at Kamfers Dam is busy stabilising. The crèche ponds are in operation and mature birds are using it as a good water and food source.”

The organisations concluded by saying that the participating partners were looking forward to the release of about 800 rescued chicks once the rehabilitation had been completed.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Nomvula Mokonyane, and the MEC for DENC, Pauline Williams, yesterday thanked all the parties for their efforts in managing this “complex situation”, and further recognised the solutions to strategically manage the challenges faced by Kamfers Dam, which is considered an iconic breeding site for flamingos and contributes to the diversity of the tourism offerings in the greater Sol Plaatje Municipality area in the Kimberley region.