Feral or domestic dogs are suspected to be responsible for the recent abandonment of the nesting area.
Extensive monitoring by BirdLife South Africa (Dr Andrew Jenkins, Tania Anderson and Robin Colyn) at the lesser flamingo breeding colony at Kamfers Dam has been ongoing for the past 22 days, since the mass rescue of about 2 000 flamingo chicks that were left abandoned due to receding water levels at the dam.
The rescue made international headlines, with chicks being transferred to several rehabilitation sites across South Africa. However, it was reported that the chicks suffered a mortality rate of about 50 percent.
Tania Anderson, from Birdlife SA, said that the breeding at the dam had “proceeded well” following the rescue of the 2 000 chicks and eggs on January 24.
“During the monitoring we have noted that the adults have been sitting tight on their nests, with only some anxiety when raptors flew over or close to the breeding area. However, things changed on Sunday (February 17) when the colony displayed more anxious behaviour than before. Unfortunately, on Sunday evening and followed through to Monday morning, adults started leaving their nests. By Monday morning, apart from a brief period when adult flamingos settled on the nest turrets, the colony was completely abandoned,” Anderson said on Tuesday.
She added that feral or domestic dogs were suspected to be responsible for the recent abandonment of the nesting area.
“On Friday morning (February 15) two dogs were chased away from the edge of the pan and on Sunday and Monday, dogs were heard barking in the veld nearby. The landowner has informed us that the presence of dogs in and around Kamfers Dam is a perennial problem,” Anderson said.
She explained that with the approval of the Department of Nature and Environmental Conservation, BirdLife SA’s Robin Colyn, Linja Allen, Dr Donovan Smit and Peter Ramollo moved into the deserted colony on Monday to undertake an investigation and search for and rescue chicks and pipping eggs.
“Fresh dog tracks were discovered between the nest turrets, and no nestlings were found alive. The depredation by dogs had caused the loss of many eggs. The presence, disturbance and depredation by feral/domestic dogs is most likely the main reason the breeding event, which was slowly tapering off, was aborted. The receding water levels over the past four days allowed the dogs easier access to the colony,” Anderson said.
Allen, who spearheaded the initial rescue, said on Tuesday that 327 eggs, that were possibly still alive, were removed from the dam on Monday, while hundreds more had to be left behind as they were already dead.
“Of these 327 eggs, 215 were found to be dead, while 24 were confirmed to be alive. Regarding the remaining 83, we are still unsure if they are dead or alive and we are waiting to see what happens. Four have already hatched,” Allen said, adding that all the eggs were being kept in incubators at a special facility at the Kimberley SPCA.
She called on residents to donate frozen prawns, which are used to feed the newly hatched chicks.
Meanwhile, BirdLife SA said that despite the sad news about the abandoned eggs, the organisation considered the current lesser flamingo breeding event at Kamfers Dam to be successful, especially as an estimated 5 200 seemingly healthy and happy chicks are assembled in large crèches and carrying out their normal daily activities.
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