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Texas State Aquarium staffer joins flamingo rescue project in South Africa

Posted: 8:29 AM, Feb 26, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-26 09:30:49-05

Thousands of abandoned flamingo chicks in South Africa recently received an extra pair of helping hands, all the way from the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi.

Lauren Wilson, the Aquarium’s curator of birds and mammals, arrived in northern South Africa this month to assist with the rescue of approximately 2,000 abandoned lesser flamingo juveniles that were found in Kamfers Dam, an important breeding location in the central region of Kimberley.

Lauren Wilson, the Texas State Aquarium’s Curator of Birds and Mammals, arrived in northern South Africa this month to assist with the rescue of approximately 2,000 abandoned lesser flamingo juveniles that were found in Kamfers Dam. (Texas State Aquarium courtesy photo)

Due to a severe drought, adult flamingos left more than 2,000 eggs and chicks behind in the dried-out habitat earlier this month.

Rescuers airlifted the chicks hundreds of miles to conservation centers around the country, where they’re being looked after until they’re healthy enough to return to their natural habitat.

This week, a second rescue operation was launched when adult flamingos once again abandoned hundreds of eggs, this time due most likely to feral and domestic dogs.

Drawing upon her years of experience in caring for bird and mammal species in zoos and aquariums, Wilson is assisting in the care of 15 flamingo chicks that hatched at the Kimberley SPCA, including feeding them and exercising them.

Wilson is also helping with the in-the-field rescue and care of flamingo eggs, including the more than 300 abandoned eggs which were collected from Kamfers Dam this week.

As rescuers continue to find and rescue more abandoned chicks, Wilson and other volunteers she is working with are combining with other animal experts from South Africa and around the world to design and build a large enclosure to house the chicks as they recover.

Wilson and other members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) are also helping train locals in flamingo care to respond to another rescue in the future.

Support from the international zoo and aquarium community has been a critical part of the flamingo’s rescue operation, since animal care experts from zoos and aquariums are the only ones with the collective expertise to carry out a rescue of this scale.

The Dallas Zoo has led the emergency effort to funnel funding and personnel to the area in coordination with the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA). Accredited U.S. zoos and aquariums have also contributed nearly $20,000 to the rescue mission.

The influx of knowledgeable personnel from zoos, aquariums, and other animal care facilities likely saved thousands of the flamingos’ lives. If all goes according to plan, the remaining rescued chicks are expected to be released back into their natural habitat in approximately four months.