BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore has sent along help to Cape Town, South Africa, to support the rescue and rehabilitation of 285 lesser flamingo chicks that were part of over 1,800 chicks abandoned at their nesting grounds during an extreme drought in January.
Jess Phillips, area manager for Penguin Coast at the Maryland Zoo, arrived in Cape Town on February 1 to help with the emergency response at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coast Birds.
The emergency rescue was at Kamfers Dam in Kimberley, about 600 miles from the South African coast, where the 1,200-acre lake began to dry up from extreme drought conditions, causing thousands of nesting lesser flamingos to abandon their egg clutches and chicks due to lack of food to feed the chicks.
Chicks were dispersed to a variety of facilities around South Africa.
“Kamfers Dam is one of the most important breeding sites for lesser flamingos in southern Africa,” Phillips said. “To see adults abandon their nests, leaving eggs and chicks behind is devastating, and when our colleagues at SANCCOB reached out to us for help, we quickly mobilized an emergency response.”
Phillips said she usually supervises between 75-100 birds a day, preparing food, feeding, checking each bird for health issues, cleaning pens, moving chicks to outside areas and monitoring them throughout her shift.
Lesser flamingos are listed as near threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Species. They live in super-alkaline lakes in southern and eastern Africa, and in southwestern Asia.
Lesser flamingo populations are becoming increasingly threatened by habitat destruction, according to the Maryland Zoo.
“The first week with the chicks was tough and we suffered some losses, but the majority are doing well and growing stronger daily,” concluded Phillips. “There are a lot of partners working together on their behalf and sites are being surveilled for releasing the fledglings when the time comes. This is a long-term effort, and I am very proud to represent The Maryland Zoo and do what I can to support SANCCOB and the flamingos.”
The Maryland Zoo has more than a dozen Caribbean flamingos in their African Journey habitat.
If you want to stay updated on the flamingo chick rescue and rehabilitation, you can visit www.marylandzoo.org.