Almost 100 of the Lesser Flamingo chicks rescued from the drought-stricken Kamfers Dam in Kimberley at the end of January and hand-reared at Montecasino Bird Gardens have been released back to the now recovered dam. A further 38 chicks who are not yet ready for release will be given ongoing care through the winter months.
More than 2,000 Lesser Flamingo chicks were abandoned at the dam due to falling water levels and a lack of food. The starving chicks were rescued and sent to accredited Zoos across the country for rehabilitation, to return them to their home when conditions improved. Kamfers Dam has become an important breeding site for Lesser Flamingos since the construction of a breeding island in 2006, and the dam and surrounding wetland are designated as a conservation zone.
The chicks were rescued through successful collaboration between the National Zoological Gardens, National Veterinary Association, BirdLife SA, Kimberly SPCA and various accredited members of PAAZA (Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquariums), including Montecasino Bird Gardens, World of Birds, SANCCOB, Ushaka Marine World, Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary and Vulpro.
Lee Anne Wolfaarst, Elain Reeve and Michelle van Stittert
Elaine Reeve, the Curator of Birds at Montecasino Bird Gardens, says they were delighted to be a part of the rescue and rehabilitation operation. “The Bird Gardens is equipped to rear flamingo chicks as we have a colony of Greater and Caribbean Flamingos, and we have had success with our babies. This also meant we could share our formula with other organisations that were part of the rescue operation. We were lucky enough to have had the support from our General Manager Shaun Wilkinson and the Montecasino management, to allow us to part take in this rescue.”
The four-month round the clock chick care provided by Montecasino staff and volunteers was intensive and carried out by a very dedicated and skilled team of people who worked tirelessly to ensure their survival. Volunteers also joined the hand-rearing team from the Friends of Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Irene Mckenzie-Fraser from CARE, NSPCA staff, Bryanston Veterinary Hospital staff and a volunteer came to help all the way from Australia –Ludmila Beltrame. The four-month-old chicks now weigh between 1kg and 1.9kg.
Reeve says, “Ninety-eight birds have now been sent back to Kimberley from Montecasino Bird Gardens to thrive and breed at the dam, and 38 chicks will continue to be nurtured as they developed a bit slower than the others for various reasons. We do also have a few birds that will not be released due to medical conditions. This includes a spunky little chick that we have named Squonk, who has survived a broken neck and fractured hip – and will no doubt delight Bird Gardens visitors in the future.”
The Bird Gardens were given tremendous support by various companies to assist with the care of the chicks, which came in many forms; towels from Netcare, Nestum cereal from Nestle, eggs from RocoMamas, 400kg sardines from Ocean Basket, a blender and shrimps from David Brooks, shrimps and fish from Dominique Bush-Nel and Peter Berge, Bryanston Veterinary Hospital for medications and donations collected by them and teddy bears from Roy Hurrienarain. Irene Mckenizie-Fraser through CARE collected teddies, towels, boxes and fish. Caxton Newspapers donated and collected newspapers, eggs, teddy bears towels. Margi from Friend of Free Wildlife collected teddy bears and towels. Special thanks to everyone, including those not mentioned above.
Mike Page the Montecasino Operations Director and Complex GM, applauded the dedicated team at the Bird Gardens for more than stepping up to the mark in this emergency rescue operation. “The team, including Elaine Reeve Curator of Birds; Michelle van Sittert, Assistant Curator of Birds; Kiara Pretorius Education and Admin Manager, Lee Ann Wolfaardt, Kathleen Kemp, Pennylope Sedabane, Assistance by; Dr Katja Koppel Veterinarian, Dr Jessica Briner Veterinarian, Dr Perushen Yenketsamy Veterinarian and others, that dedicated their time to the rearing of the baby flamingos, often going with only a few hours’ sleep a night. The release of the birds back to their breeding grounds is a triumph for the bird world and for all of us. We look forward to seeing the remaining chicks build up their strength and join the flocks at the dam.”
For more information on the conservation programmes at the Montecasino Bird Gardens, go to www.montecasino.co.za or follow #MonteCares on social media.