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How Humans are Threatening the Extinction of Flamingos

How Humans are Threatening the Extinction of Flamingos

DR. STACEY DENISE MOORE


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Flamingos are a well-known and iconic bird species, distinguished by their bright pink feathers and distinct appearance.

These magnificent creatures, however, face numerous threats to their survival, ranging from habitat destruction and pollution to climate change and overfishing.

Dr. Stacey Denise

This article will look at the current state of flamingos, the major threats they face, and the critical role artists can play in raising awareness about their plight.

The state of flamingos

Flamingos are not evenly distributed around the world. They are mostly concentrated in a few areas where they thrive due to favourable conditions. 90% of wild flamingos live in South America. The Caribbean and Africa are home to the remaining 10%. The six species of flamingos include the Andean, Caribbean, Chilean, Greater, Lesser, and James’s flamingos. Each of these species is unique in its way, from its coloration to its preferred habitats.

When compared to species on the brink of extinction, flamingos might seem to be doing alright. Their population is estimated at millions, and they can travel to avoid predators and locate food.

Dr. Stacey Denise

While none of the species is listed as “Endangered” by the IUCN Red List, the lesser flamingo, the Chilean flamingo, and the Puna flamingo are all listed as “Near Threatened”, and the Andean flamingo is listed as “Vulnerable” due to their populations facing downwards trends.

We need to look at and explore these trends to understand what the future holds for flamingos.

For example, the lesser flamingo population in Africa has decreased by over 50% in the past few decades, which can be seen in Lake Naivasha, Kenya, where the number of flamingos has dropped from over 850,000 in 2000 to 6000 in 2021.

Dr. Stacey Denise

Similar crashes are seen all over the world. What is driving this quick decline?

Threats

Flamingo populations are rapidly declining due to a combination of factors, including climate change, habitat loss, pollution from lithium mining, and resource overuse.

In recent years, the number of flamingos in Lake Naivasha, Kenya, has decreased from over a million to less than 10,000.

Pollution from agricultural runoff, increased tourism, and human settlements in the area have all been blamed for the decline.

Dr. Stacey Denise

A similar situation exists in Chile, where lithium mining operations have disrupted the delicate balance of the flamingo’s natural habitats.

Climate change and habitat loss

To understand how climate change impacts flamingos, it is necessary to understand their specialized feeding strategies. Flamingos use their unique beaks to sift algae and crustaceans from excessively saline water, which they eat. This specialized strategy allows them to feed with little competition from other animals and helps protect them from predators.

Unfortunately, it also limits them to feed in specialized habitats and renders them vulnerable to any changes in climate. In South America, climate change has intensified droughts, leaving flamingos unable to access their traditional feeding grounds. This has resulted in considerable drops in their population.

Africa, on the other hand, has faced a different challenge; too much rainfall is causing flooding in traditionally saline habitats.

This affects the chemistry of the environment, leading to an alteration in the availability of food sources for the flamingos. Additionally, these higher levels of water also affect agricultural operations and residences, resulting in people having to relocate.

Dr. Stacey Denise

In Africa, the consequences of climate change are largely similar. Instead of too little water, they suffer from too much of it. Flamingos are impacted by increased rainfall, which causes flooding in their normally salty habitats. The sudden influx of fresh water disrupts the delicate chemistry of the ecosystem, affecting the availability of food for flamingos.

The same adaptations that allow them to tolerate high amounts of salt and alkaline pHs are deadly for most other birds meaning that they are unable to survive in the new freshwater conditions.

Thus, climate change threatens the survival of flamingos and the humans who share their habitat, necessitating the integration of conservation and human aid efforts.

Dr. Stacey Denise

Pollution and electric car manufacturing

Electric vehicle (EV) producers have depicted a captivating image of their models, the vibrant colors, peacefulness, and diversity of the environment they navigate.

Yet, the flourishing need for lithium, an essential ingredient in EV batteries, is jeopardizing flamingo populations in South American nations, particularly in Chile, the home to the largest reserves of lithium.

To accommodate the amplified requirement, mining corporations have been expanding their undertakings, culminating in the demolition of habitats like the Atacama salt flats, where now such operations are conducted.

These activities pose dual risks to the flamingos of Chile. First, mining infrastructure like roads and facilities has damaged their natural habitat, causing conflicts and interference that could reduce their numbers.

Secondarily, the water pollution caused by these works has affected the supply of food for the flamingos.

For instance, the disruption of water in the Salar de Atacama, a critical supply of sustenance for them, has augmented the saltiness of the existing water to unbearable heights, which even the adaptable flamingos can’t endure, as well as the aquatic life they rely on.

Other dangers, including overfishing and invasive species, have also played their part in their possible disappearance. But how can we keep them safe?

Dr. Stacey Denise

The role of artists, scientists, and local communities

Flamingos are integral to the stability of saltwater environments and they provide a substantial source of revenue to local economies. Safeguarding them is vital.

Tanzania is a prime example, where flamingos play a pivotal role in driving tourism, with 17.2% of the GDP coming from visitors wanting to witness these majestic birds in their native habitats. We must form strong coalitions and include all stakeholders to protect these wonderful creatures and fight climate change.

-Dr. Stacey Denise

Wildlife and natural habitats have an important story to tell, and it is the role of artists to emotionally engage people by bringing these issues to life.

Photographers and painters can not only celebrate the beauty of flamingos, but they can also serve as visual ambassadors, using their artwork to educate individuals and organizations about their fragility.

Collaboration between artists and scientists can result in powerful exhibitions and publications that explore the effects of climate change, habitat destruction and pollution on the population of flamingos.

Conservation groups have the opportunity to involve local inhabitants, such as indigenous people, in their scientific research projects.

These local people possess comprehensive information about their environment and through joint work, both parties can promote wetland preservation, lessened pollution and sustainable growth.

-Dr. Stacey Denise

Birdwatching and picture excursions promote flamingo and other wildlife conservation and benefit local communities.

Conclusion

Flamingos are not only beautiful, but evolutionary, unique and ecologically important. They face intertwined threats due to climate change, habitat loss and pollution. However, we can all help protect them. Collaboration between artists, scientists, and local communities is essential for their conservation.

Through their joint efforts, they can raise awareness, conduct research, and implement effective conservation strategies that protect these magnificent birds.

-Dr. Stacey Denise

To combat flamingo extinction, we must work together and engage all stakeholders to ensure that these birds continue to thrive in the wild.



Stacey Denise Moore, M.D.
Author
Stacey Denise Moore, M.D.

Dr. Stacey Denise Moore is the visionary behind Ceyise Studios, serving as Chief Creative Officer, Principal Artist, and Chief Expert Color Designer. With a background in medicine, her life’s work is a harmonious blend of art and wellness, deeply influenced by a transformative personal experience. Her digital mixed-media art, rooted in color psychology, inspires individuals to embrace their authenticity and express their emotions freely. At Ceyise Studios, Dr. Stacey Denise’s expertise in color consulting and fine art photography aims not just to beautify but to evoke a sense of well-being and self-confidence in others. She believes in the transformative power of art to communicate profound emotions and advocates for living a life designed with optimism and intention.

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