[Oversea] South Africa's flamingos under threat

South Africa's flamingos under threat

South Africa's flamingos under threat

News from BirdLife International


Development on the banks of Kamfers Dam outside the Northern Cape capital of Kimberley is threatening the only breeding population of Lesser Flamingos Phoeniconaias minor in South Africa. Kamfers Dam supports one of only four breeding populations in Africa. These birds bred during 2008, with an incredible 9,000 chicks hatching on the dam’s artificial flamingo breeding island. It is anticipated that regular breeding will reverse the negative population trend of this globally Near-Threatened species.

“The development of the site was a huge investment and would be a shame if it’s allowed to be destroyed by this threat” said Duncan Pritchard, the acting Executive Director of BirdLife South Africa (BirdLife in South Africa). Kamfers Dam is currently the depository for raw sewage that flows from the currently dysfunctional treatment plant, a result of poor management of the sewerage works by the Sol Plaatje Municipality. The increased constant eutrophication has led to severe algal blooms and may be responsible for the current lesions and abnormalities being recorded on some of the Lesser Flamingos.

The African population of Lesser Flamingo is declining due to a number of threats amongst which poorly planned development and water pollution are paramount. Proposed housing developments around Kamfers Dam will destroy approximately 350 hectares of the dam’s buffer zone. Despite the fact that this development is against Kimberley’s Spatial Development Framework, the Sol Plaatje Municipality is adamant that it will go ahead with it, thereby ignoring South Africa’s commitment to honour international conventions, such as the Convention on Migratory Species and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“Political leadership is failing South Africa in allowing and promoting unsound development that directly impacts on threatened birds,” said Duncan Pritchard.

The Lesser Flamingo faces many threats in Africa, such as the proposed soda ash project at Lake Natron where nearly all of East Africa's estimated 1.5 - 2.5 million Lesser Flamingos (75% of the world population) breed. Lesser Flamingos are extremely sensitive to environmental disturbance, particularly when breeding, and readily abandon colonies. BirdLife International in collaboration with partners and supporters worldwide initiated a global campaign aimed at stopping the soda ash plant threat.

BirdLife South Africa is calling on the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism to intervene, and not to approve the proposed construction of housing developments in the Kamfers Dam buffer zone. They are also calling on the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry to issue directives to the Sol Plaatje Municipality to manage the sewage treatment plant effectively and end the current pollution of Kamfers Dam. The municipality has an obligation to its ratepayers and the environment to ensure sound water management.

Should the pathological tests prove that the abnormalities observed in the Lesser Flamingos are due to deteriorating water quality, many other waterbird species and perhaps the entire aquatic system may be at risk.