Rescuers are moving hundreds of dehydrated smaller flamingo chicks from their breeding ground at a drought-stricken South African dam to a bird sanctuary in Cape Town, to save them from death by starvation and lack of water.
Their birthplace, the Kamfers Dam in the Northern Cape, is one of only three breeding grounds for the famously pink birds in southern Africa, the other two being in Namibia and Botswana, according to researcher Katta Ludynia.
The rescued chicks take three to four months to fledge, and it is still clear whether they will eventually be released back in the wild in Cape Town or transported back hundreds of miles to their home in Kimberley, she said.
"There are still several thousand birds breeding in the dam in areas that still have water," said Katta Ludynia, research manager at Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB). "It now depends on the water levels whether these birds will pull through."
Ludynia said the sanctuary was caring for around 550 chicks, most of them dehydrated when they arrived Monday after being abandoned by parents who went off in search of food.
The chicks are being moved to the sanctuary by plane and road.
SANCCOB is one of several centers across South Africa caring for about 2,000 chicks that were rescued from the dam.
Although it hosts the largest population of lesser flamingoes in southern Africa, Kamfers Dam, north of Kimberley, is often dry and mainly depends on rainwater. It also gets some water from a sewerage works that releases water into its wetlands.
"The dam in Kimberley is so important because it is manageable, so we can secure the water level there. That might be the only site the flamingos can breed in southern Africa, if the drought continues in other areas," Ludynia said.