One of my favourite examples of Reconciliation Ecology is the artificial flamingo breeding island in Kamfers Dam, Kimberley, South Africa. Kimberley (famous for its diamonds) is in the Northern Cape, a rather arid province, and Kamfers Dam is one of the largest waterbodies around. There’s something special about Kamfers Dam, because for years it has attracted tens of thousands of both Greater and Lesser Flamingo to its shores. However, neither species has managed to breed there.
One fine evening not very long ago, after way too many Castles at the braai (or so I surmise) my friend Mark Anderson (a great Kimberley bird man) and some of his pals in the mining industry got it in to their silly heads that perhaps building an artificial breeding island in the dam might encourage our pinkish friends to ditch their distracting all night funky flamingo parties and get down to the sensible and worthwhile task of raising families.
The island really was a ridiculous idea, as the science of flamingo breeding island construction is somewhere with underwater cigar smoking in the ranks of human knowledge, and Lesser Flamingo in particular are known to be extremely picky about where they choose to breed; there were in fact only three known Lesser breeding sites in all of Africa when Mark and his buddies started thinking about their rocks-in-the-dam (or should we say ‘rocks-their-heads’) plan. These were Sua Pan in Botswana, Etosha Pan in Namibia, and Lake Natron. (Sua and Natron are both under threat from proposed industrial developments, making the Lesser Flamingo’s future prospects somewhat pink in a blue kind of way.)
Anyhow, the guys at Ekapa Mining had a few (zillion) brass pennies to rub together (people in the diamond industry — can’t take ’em anywhere — all those jangling pockets…) and they came out with their monster trucks and dumped a cute S-shaped pile of rocks in the dam, more-or-less according to Mark’s thumbsucky specifications. Various other people pitched in with other bits ‘n bobs like mud and old flamingo nests (s’true) and, well, blow me down soldier, before we knew it there were THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of flamingos on the island! And they were laying eggs! And sitting on them! And they hatched! And, crap, there were so many damned flamingos being born that Mark couldn’t even count the bloody things! He had to go up in an aeroplane and take high-res photos and get computers to tally up the pink and grey fluffy blobs in the pictures! The birds were packed so many so tight I could see the island as a giant pale pink S from 35 000ft when I last flew from Joburg to Cape Town!
The madcap island was/is a raging success. Wowee!
Except now the local authorities are on the edge of screwing it all up. The island is about to be dumped in a pile of crap — literally. The area’s guv’mint types seem to have forgotten that part of their job is to maintain Kimberley’s sewage plants. Slumped in a pile of reeking municipal laziness, the kind that would get you fired and perhaps even dumped in a long-drop in some other countries, they’ve allowed the local shit-stirring-and-cleaning-upping machinery to go down the toilet, and now Kamfers Dam is threatened by a tidal wave of the brown stuff. This is, splatteringly obviously, bad news for the flamingos and the 60-odd other species of birds that use the Dam and (ta da!) all the people that have to drink the Dam’s water.
This is where you come in: Do your web-browser a favour and tootle-loo off to
and add your name to the wake call to Kimberley’s municipal water people to get their act together before it’s too late (don’t forget to wipe when you’re done).
Mark and the Save the Flamingos crowd have a rescue plan all worked out, with engineers and envirramentalists and fighter jets and dancing girls all ready to go to rescue our long-necked pinko-weirdo feathered friends (OK I made up the fighter jets and dancing girls) BUT THEY NEED YOUR HELP, wherever you are in the world! Cash would be nice, too!
Send this link to your contacts! See you on the flamingo website! A luta flamingua, etcetera!