Compiled by Jana-Mari Smith
Photographs Carmen Begley©
At the end of March 2013 a Venture Publications colleague, a keen photographer in her spare time, captured thrilling sights of the thousands of flamingoes currently present at the Walvis Bay lagoon.
In February, during the annual Walvis Bay bird count at the Ramsar site, the highest documented number of Greater Flamingos (46 291) were counted in several years. In addition, Lesser Flamingos numbered 5 799, the highest count in five years.
We decided this is a good opportunity to explore a few facts on the flamingoes.
A few years ago, renowned and respected conservationist Keith Wearne put together a fact sheet on the Walvis Bay Ramsar Site – which includes the lagoon, saltpans and Pelican point. According to the fact sheet, which Keith produced as part of his work for the Coastal and Environmental Trust of Namibia (CETN) the Walvis Bay Ramsar Site is not only home to tens of thousands of flamingoes at certain times of the year, but it is also a temporary stop-over for thousands of other important wetland species.
“Around 200 000 terns and 70 000 shorebirds arrive in September/October each year and return in April/May to the Northern hemisphere to breed”.
The Walvis Bay Ramsar site, he said, is considered of great importance both nationally and internationally and the Walvis Bay wetlands are judged by ornithologists to be the most important coastal wetland in southern Africa and one of three most important coastal wetlands in Africa.
Holger Kolberg, the Principal Conservation Scientist Ministry of Environment and Tourism, explained that “it is quite normal for there to be tens thousands of flamingos at Walvis Bay and Sandwich harbour this time of the year”.
Nevertheless, due to good rains for the past six years, the flocks at the coast were somewhat reduced, as most preferred to stay inland at their breedings sites – either the Etosha National Park or the Sua Pan in Botswana.
Kolberg noted that the “drought has not yet impacted on the birds but if we are entering into a dry cycle then this will obviously impact on the breeding success”.
This in itself should not cause worry yet, he cautioned, because flamingos are long living birds and “provided the drought doesn’t last too long, then we should be fine”.
The following facts all stem from the factsheet compiled by Keith Wearne for the CETN.