This is just too cute not to share, and I am a bit of a sucker for a happy ending, so this sweet story of 1500 abandoned baby flamingos who now have new homes just makes me happy on a Friday morning!

Rescued from the drought-stricken Kamfers Dam in Kimberley on 30th January this year, some of the chicklets were only 1 day old and some of the eggs had not even hatched yet when the National Zoological Gardens, National Veterinary Association, BirdLife South Africa, the Kimberly SPCA and various accredited members of PAAZA (Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquariums), including Montecasino Bird Gardens, World of Birds, SANCCOB, Ushaka Marine World, Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary and Vulpro, came in to rescue the baby birds.

The small group of chicks that were airlifted to Montecasino Bird Gardens were immediately taken into the care of vets who fought to stabilise them, while the Bird Gardens staff set abought preparing for the gruelling schedule and logistical undertaking of caring for the chicks. The Bird Gardens is an environmental and conservation facility accredited by PAAZA and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

“This operation is the largest of its kind. We have a colony of Greater and Caribbean Flamingos at Montecasino and have had good success in rearing babies. We were, therefore, able to share our feeding formula with the other organisations who adopted the rescued babies from Kimberly. For reasons of bio-security, we have had to keep the fledgelings separate from our colonies to avoid the risk of spreading disease. The Lesser Flamingo has seldom been reared in captivity,” says Shaun Wilkinson, General Manager at Montecasino Bird Gardens.

Initially requiring round-the-clock feeding and care, the chicks are now stable and on a four-hour feeding cycle. “For the first week they had to be fed every hour,” says Elaine Reeve, (Curator of Birds) who, along with Michelle (Assistant Curator of Birds), Dr Jessica Briner (Veterinarian), and Theo Nel (Curator of Reptiles), have dedicated their time to the rearing of the fledglings.

Surviving on only a few hours’ sleep a night, the team, along with volunteers, have been feeding the babies a mixture of fish, shrimp, egg and baby cereal. The mixture is sieved to remove any chunks, liquidised and then carefully syringed down the baby’s beaks at a 35-degree angle. “Each baby has been microchipped and is scanned at every feed to ensure each one is fed the correct amount. There is a degree of skill required to feed them as they can easily aspirate if fed too quickly,” says Wilkinson.

The babies are housed in temporary enclosures based on their weight, with infrared lights providing the perfect temperature for them to thrive, with an array of teddy bears and feather dusters to provide them with comfort. The cacophony of squawks that heralds an imminent feeding time is reassuring evidence of their growing strength.

“The fledgelings will be weaned between 30 and 40 days after birth, and once they start filter feeding we will put them onto flamingo food. We are all working towards reuniting the colony and releasing them back into the wild, hopefully in May,” concludes Mandla Mngomezulu, Property Manager of Montecasino.

Nice one Montecasino – I love this story. Find out more, right here…

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