More than 2 000 lesser flamingo chicks were rescued last year. Picture: Sanccob / Facebook
Cape Town – Another 550 lesser flamingos, reared by rescue groups after being abandoned as chicks at the Kamfers Dam near Kimberley last year, have been released back into the wild.

Last January, more than 2 000 lesser flamingo chicks were abandoned by their parents as the dam ran dry.

Rescue operations were headed by SaamStaan, a Kimberley-based NPO.

The chicks were taken in by the World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary and Monkey Park in Hout Bay and the SA National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob), among others.

Dr Doug Harebottle of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Sciences at Sol Plaatje University said: “We had 602 birds returned to Kimberley from rehab centres, of the about 2 000 that were initially rescued.”

There were nine releases between May 8 and September 29 last year at Kamfers Dam.

“A total of 555 birds were released and all birds were banded with a SAFRING metal ring and a yellow ring with black engraving, to monitor survival and movements of individuals. Twenty-five birds were fitted with GPS tracking devices, and one bird was a wild bird that was rehabilitated.

“For all releases, most birds integrated fairly quickly with existing flocks on the dam. This was a good sign,” Harebottle said.

To date, a little more than 60 of the released birds have been found dead, mainly at Kamfers Dam between May and October.

Many wild juveniles also died during this period.

Mortalities were mainly from starvation because of low algal abundance in the dam during winter and from power line collisions with railway lines on the eastern and southern sides of the dam, he said.

Two birds with yellow rings from the first release were resighted in Namibia.

A wild bird, meanwhile, flew to Port Elizabeth and has been at local salt pans for almost six months.

“One of the released birds with a tracker flew to Chrissiesmeer area in Mpumalanga,” Harebottle said.

“Other released birds with trackers showed mainly local movements in the Free State and around parts of the Northern Cape.

“There have been no resightings of yellow-ringed birds since mid-October, so survival rates may now be different, but, without data we can only make assumptions.

Sanccob spokesperson Hedwich Tulp said: “Five birds were transferred to the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria as they had avian pox lesions and were therefore not releasable.

“These birds were eventually transferred to the pox-dedicated Lory Park Zoo and Owl Sanctuary in Midrand. It is hoped that they will be released soon.”

Cape Times