In 2006, internationally renowned ornothologist, Mark Anderson, initiated the construction of an artificial island in Kamfers Dam near Kimberly in South Africa in an attempt to increase breeding activity amongst the Lesser Flamingos. The Lesser Flamingo is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because of limited breeding sites around the world and their unpredictable breeding habits.
This significant, S-shaped island is one of only six breeding sites in the world and as such plays an indispensible role in the conservation of the species. Sadly, however, the island is currently being destroyed by rising water levels and according to Anderson it could be totally submerged within a few weeks. “This is an absolute disaster,” he stated. In addition, Kamfers Dam and its flamingos also face other threats such as pollution and a proposed housing development next to the dam.
Successful Breeding of Flamingos at Kamfers Dam
Anderson says that there are perhaps 60 000 Lesser Flamingos at Kamfers Dam. “Three years ago, using high resolution aerial images and working with Danish Researchers, we counted more than 83 000 Lesser Flamingos.”
The artificial island has thus far seen the birth of about 22 000 chicks with the third successive breeding event underway. Anderson says that the first chicks were spotted on Tuesday via webcam.
Pollution and Rising Water Level Threatens Species
Over the last few years several scientific tests have been done which indicated that the water is very polluted.
This pollution is caused by raw sewage that flows into the dam as a result of an inadequately equipped sewage plant which the Sol Plaatje Municipality in Kimberley failed to upgrade over the years.
Anderson says that the municipality currently has a plan drawn up by consultants “but apparently no money to implement it.”
In addition, Anderson says that more that 50 percent of the chicks during the last breeding event suffered from Avian Pox Virus.
Anderson explains that the water level of Kamfers Dam is rising due to the fact that more people are living in Kimberley and subsequently producing more effluent water. Another contributing factor is leaking pipes.
He adds that as a result of this, the water is too deep for the Lesser Flamingos to forage and the island is in the process of flooding which will have a devastating effect on the Lesser Flamingos. A total of 5 000 sand bags have already been packed around the island in an attempt to stop the erosion.
The Northgate Housing Development
Anderson was a former employee of the Northern Cape’s Department of Tourism, Environment and Conservation but was suspended last year when he voiced his concern regarding the proposed Northgate Housing Development next to Kamfers Dam.
Anderson is currently employed by Birdlife South Africa as their Executive Director.
He explains that the development will cause disturbance from people and their pets, “possible pollution as the development is in the dam’s catchment as well as more sewage on an already stressed sewage works.”
One of the reasons why the artificial island was built in the first place was to provide a safe haven for the Lesser Flamingos to breed as there were too many disturbances by humans and animals which prevented them from breeding successfully before.
No development has taken place yet and there are currently legal battles being fought regarding the proposed development.
Save The Flamingo Association
The Save The Flamingo association is a non-profit organisation that is committed to conserving Kamfers Dam and its flamingos. Thus far, the petition has been signed by over 7 000 people, however more support is needed in order to convince the local authorities about the severity of the issue.
In addition, donations can be made on the organisation’s website which will be used to conserve Kamfers Dam’s flamingos and to address immediate problems that are threatening their survival.
It is easy to argue that if one is not involved in the wrongdoing, no evil is committed, however, if one only idly stands by, you become part of the problem and will surely witness the extinction of yet another precious species under the callous hand of man.
As John Donne said, no man is an island and as such we all need to stand together to conserve our planet and its species.