Oklahoma City Zoo joining flamingo chick rescue effort in South Africa

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Zoo is sending staff to South Africa to join a massive flamingo chick rescue effort.

On Thursday, the zoo announced they are providing $6,000 from their Round Up for Conservation emergency fund to send staff for “boots on the ground” support after more than 1,800 lesser flamingo chicks were abandoned in South Africa.

Zoo officials say due to high temperatures and low rainfall at the breeding site, which is one of only six wetlands where lesser flamingos breed, the parent flamingos abandoned their offspring before the chicks were able to survive on their own.

The chicks were then relocated to wildlife facilities in South Africa and will be cared for by humans until they are mature enough to go back into the wild.

“The work I will be doing in the field is very similar to what I do with the flamingos at the OKC Zoo – feeding the chicks, monitoring their growth and generally ensuring their health and welfare – just on a much larger scale,” said OKC Zoo Assistant Birds Curator Holly Ray. “It’s vital that conservation organizations like the OKC Zoo get involved and lend support whenever major crises occur. We are using our expertise to help raise and release these birds back into the wild population.”

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Ray has more than a decade of experience hand-rearing flamingos and volunteered to join the rescue effort in South Africa and is expected to return in early April. She also serves as vice coordinator for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Chilean flamingo species survival plan (SSP).

Holly Ray, Assistant Birds Curator; Courtesy: Oklahoma City Zoo

The lesser flamingo is the smallest species of flamingo and is found primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of India. The species is currently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as near threatened due to its declining population and the low number of breeding sites, some of which are threatened by human activity.

Flamingo chick feeding; Credit: South African Association for Marine Biological Research

“The Round Up for Conservation emergency fund was created specifically for situations when the clock is ticking and immediate action is required,” said Rebecca Snyder, OKC Zoo’s conservation and science curator. “The loss of almost 2,000 flamingo chicks could have dealt a tremendous blow to the species – one from which it may not have recovered. I continue to be grateful to Zoo guests who support Round Up for Conservation and to ZOOfriends members for their commitment to conservation.”

The OKC Zoo is one of many zoos, including the Dallas Zoo, who have joined the rescue effort.

For more information on the Oklahoma City Zoo and how you can donate, click here.

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