Lesser Flamingos make history at Kimberley’s Kamfers Dam
The Lesser Flamingos have started breeding at Kamfers Dam, the large, permanent wetland located just north of Kimberley, in the Northern Cape Province, South Africa. The first chicks probably hatching during late-December.
Kamfers Dam is only the fourth breeding locality for the near-threatened Lesser Flamingo in Africa, and the sixth in the world. Lesser Flamingos breed at Etosha Pan (Namibia), Sua Pan (Botswana) and Lake Natron (Tanzania), as well as at Zinzuwadia and Purabcheria salt pans in north-western India. As all of these breeding sites are threatened by various human-induced factors, it is critically important that Lesser Flamingos now have another breeding site. This is the first time that Lesser Flamingos have successfully bred in South Africa and the first time that they have bred on an artificial island.
Although the most numerous of the world's flamingos, the Lesser Flamingo is classified as “Near Threatened” in the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, indicating that it is considered likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.
The Kamfers Dam flamingo breeding island project is a collaborative project of the Department of Tourism, Environment & Conservation, Ekapa Mining, Envirosec, and Kamfers Dam’s landowners, Herbert and Brenda Booth. The construction of the flamingo island was proposed by Mark Anderson, the Department of Tourism, Environment & Conservation’s ornithologist, and he has been responsible for managing this project.
Ekapa Mining, a majority black-owned junior mining company, funded and constructed the Kamfers Dam flamingo island, the third of its type in the world. Soon after construction was completed in September 2006, the flamingos started using the island and even constructed nests and laid a few eggs a few months later.
The island which is 250 m x 25 m in size and S-shaped was built with 26,000 tons of calcrete, rocks and clay. A submersed pump, powered by three solar panels, provides water for four ponds on the island, and thus the wet clay that the flamingos use to construct their nest turrets.
This important conservation initiative has already received acclaim, as Ekapa Mining has been the recipient of a prestigious Nedbank Capital Green Mining Award as well as a Wildlife & Environment Society scroll. Dr Brooks Childress, Chairman of the IUCN-SSC/Wetlands International Flamingo Specialist Group, described the construction and success of this new flamingo breeding island as the most significant flamingo conservation event internationally in many years.
Kamfers Dam supports the most important permanent population of Lesser Flamingos in southern Africa, usually numbering in excess of 25,000 individuals, but during recent months in excess of 50,000 birds. The dam is a Natural Heritage Site and an Important Bird Area.
Both Lesser and Greater Flamingos have previously attempted to breed at Kamfers Dam, constructing nests and even laying a few eggs. Disturbance from people and dogs was probably responsible for these breeding events not being successful. Lesser Flamingos are very sensitive while breeding and therefore people will not be allowed access to the area close to the island.
The Lesser Flamingo does not breed annually at the five other sites in Africa and India, mainly because they are only irregularly inundated during periods of good rainfall. They only breed infrequently at some sites, such as at Etosha Pan in Namibia. Conservationists are concerned that the most important breeding site, Lake Natron in northern Tanzania, will be severely impacted by the proposed mining developments on the shores of this ecologically important lake. The Kamfers Dam breeding event is therefore very significant as it is now another site at which the Lesser Flamingo breeds. It will thus contribute to the conservation of this threatened species, especially if they breed annually at this permanent wetland.