Home News SOL BLAMED FOR FLAMINGO DISASTER…Hundreds of chicks saved



It was encouraging to see the people of South Africa offering support and expressing concern and said that it shows that South Africans in general love nature

RESCUED: Local mining company KEMJV (Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture) on Friday departed from Kimberley Airport with a cargo of 870 Flamingo chicks, rescued from Kamfers Dam in Kimberley. Picture: Peter Hohne

WHILE hundreds of flamingo chicks were rescued from Kamfers Dam near Kimberley on the weekend after being abandoned by their parents, bird experts have accused the Sol Plaatje Municipality of having “the blood of dead and dying flamingo chicks on their hands”.

Low water levels at the dam, caused by the diversion of water from the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Plant (HWWTP), as well as ongoing drought conditions, has led to flamingos abandoning their chicks and nesting sites in search of bigger water masses. 

Conservationists last week raised alarm bells about the situation at the dam, where newly-hatched flamingo chicks were found abandoned, exposed to extreme heat and unable to reach water.
On Thursday evening a local community group, SaamStaan Kimberley, undertook a rescue mission at the dam and retrieved about 900 chicks. After spending the night at the Kimberley SPCA, the chicks were transported by plane to a smallholding outside Pretoria belonging to Mike Bolhuis. 

A local mining company, Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV), sponsored the air transport of the birds to Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria, where they were received by veterinarians before being moved to their new home.

On Friday morning, another 1 000 chicks were rescued from the dam and were moved to the SPCA in Kimberley, where they were yesterday still being cared for.

About 500 chicks were yesterday already loaded into boxes, ready to be airlifted to Pretoria, but KEM-JV representatives were still waiting for the necessary permits to be issued before the birds could be flown to Pretoria.
KEM-JV environmental specialist, Esther van der Westhuizen, said the rehabilitation attempt would be purely experimental, with no results guaranteed. 

She added that KEM-JV offered to cover the flight costs of transporting the chicks to Gauteng, as transport by land would take too long and put too much stress on the chicks.

Meanwhile, the CEO of Birdlife South Africa, Mark Anderson, this weekend said that he was “deeply saddened by the tragedy that was unfolding at Kamfers Dam, the wetland outside Kimberley”.

“The dam is drying up and hundreds, possibly thousands, of flamingo eggs and small chicks have been deserted by their parents. With almost no rain this summer, extremely high temperatures, and no water inflow from the sewage works, the dam is rapidly drying. The worst is that this catastrophe could have been averted if Sol Plaatje Municipality had heeded the call from conservationists and ornithologists over the past 15 years to fix the sewerage works. 

“For years, raw sewage has been flowing into the veld and I understand that currently only 10 to 15% of the 30 to 40 megalitres of sewage water produced by the city each day is reaching the sewerage works and none of it is flowing into the dam. This is because of leaking pipes, faulty pump stations and a non-functional sewerage works. 

“It is harsh, but perhaps correct, to say that the blood of the dead and dying flamingo chicks is on the hands of the incompetent officials at the Sol Plaatje Municipality who, despite meetings, specialist studies, offers of assistance, petitions, lawyer’s letters, and more, have for more than a decade just not got their act together,” Anderson said.

He added that he was hoping that the current “catastrophe” would be the wake-up call which finally forced the municipality to intervene and “fix the mess”.

“Urgent and decisive action should be taken by the Northern Cape departments of Tourism and Environment and Nature Conservation and the national departments of Water and Sanitation and Environmental Affairs. 

“The municipality should be punished for its flagrant disregard of the environment, especially for Kamfers Dam’s lesser flamingos, but also the people of Kimberley. The municipality should be prosecuted for failing to adhere to provincial and national legislation and it should be hauled over the coals for disregarding international environmental agreements. It is even in contravention of the important principles in our country’s Constitution,” Anderson stated.

He added that it was encouraging to see the people of South Africa offering support and expressing concern and said that it shows that South Africans in general love nature.

“I am, however, concerned about the well-being of the chicks and it is important for them to be transported correctly, fed appropriate food and housed in suitable enclosures. Imprinting on humans should be avoided so that the surviving birds can be released back into the wild, but only following disease screening (to prevent the transmission of diseases to wild birds). None of the flamingos should be sold to international collectors. 

“I would like to appeal to people and organisations to support the rescue and rearing efforts. This is going to be a massive and difficult undertaking and it needs to be done properly, with adherence to international best practice husbandry techniques. It is going to be a costly and labour-intensive operation and it will take months and months before the flamingos will be ready for release. 

“Very importantly, there needs to be more vociferous criticism of the Sol Plaatje Municipality so that it can, for once and for all, fix the infrastructure which has resulted in this very unfortunate tragedy,” Anderson concluded.
SPCA spokesperson, Mario van der Westhuizen, yesterday expressed gratitude to city residents “who came out in their numbers” to assist by donating food and volunteering to feed the birds.

He said that the SPCA was still in need of the following items which are used to feed the birds: Nestum Baby Cereal, corn oil, Vitaforce Vitamin E 400iu capsules and frozen prawns/shrimp.

Those wanting to volunteer with feeding can report to the SPCA offices for feeding times at 11am, 4pm and 8pm.