A touch of pink for Black River

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flamingos jan 14 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS WADE TO GO: A flock of about 300 flamingos wade in the Black River next to the N2 yesterday. The birds' presence was due to better water quality, according to an expert. Picture: COURTNEY AFRICA

The City of Cape Town has another feather in its cap – the presence of flamingos in the Black River.

“Their presence in the Black River has become an increasingly common sight in the past few years. I think a lot more waterbirds can be seen in the river than there used to be and it is probably a reflection on the quality of water coming from the city’s waterworks. It is also probably a pat on the back of the city,” Professor Les Underhill, director of the animal demographic unit at UCT, said on Sunday after a flock of about 300 flamingos were spotted in the river.

He said the water in the once badly polluted Black River has become clean enough for the survival of animal species which flamingos and other waterbirds feed on.

“A lot of insect life can now actually grow there in that river and provide food for waterbirds,” he said.

The Black River’s water quality has improved dramatically over recent years and there was evidence of this when the river was viewed from Sybrand Park, said Underhill.

“The flamingos feed on really tiny organisms. I’m not a hundred percent sure, but you’ll never get flamingos where the water is very polluted. The water has to be reasonably clean,” he said, adding that the pink birds’ breeding areas include northern Namibia and the Estosha Pan.

“It will fluctuate hugely because they come here when they are not breeding. in the West Coat Park there can sometimes be about 10 000, or just a handful. They can also be seen at the sewerage works at Strandfontein,” he added.

Rob Little, manager at UCT’s FitzPatrick Institute, said the presence of the flamingos in the Black River was attributed to an “eruption” of invertebrates in the river.

“Flamingos follow them around in the Western Cape. They know where to find them,” he said.

Asked if the number of invertebrates had increased due to better water quality, he said: “Not necessarily. We might think so, but the water is okay for invertebrates.”

He did not have flamingo population figures at hand, but said the bird species was not threatened.

“It’s stable,” he said. “They feed on small aquatic animals which are not really insects. They are shrimp-like animals and the flamingos feed on them. You will also notice that a large number of avocets that also feed on these animals have joined the flamingos in the Black River,” he said of the flamingos’ diet. - Cape Times

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