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Flamingo Conservation Project

Flamingos were among the first animals to be housed on the site where Flamingo Land now stands. Due to their popularity among visitors the colourful bird remains in the name of the park, despite the park now containing 129 other species.

Alongside this, the park has developed a long-term commitment to supporting flamingo conservation and awareness-raising. Visitors to the park can discover the latest news regarding the status of wild flamingos through our slideshows and education centre. Through our annual donation to flamingo projects, Flamingo Land has also contributed to surveys of wild populations and the development of species action plans in East Africa.

Threats to wild populations of the six flamingo species include disturbance, habitat loss, mining, egg collection, water extraction and pollution. The most serious recent threat to wild flamingo populations has been proposed salt extraction from Lake Natron in Tanzania, where 75% of the global population of lesser flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor) are known to breed. International and African conservationists are now working with the Government of Tanzania to better protect the area.

Historically the captive populations of flamingos across Europe were not managed to the level of more endangered animals. This was largely due to the high number of flamingos involved. However despite the high numbers, the lack of past co-ordinated management has led to some mixing of the different species. Furthermore, most of the current collection of flamingos in the UK derived from wild caught birds imported in the 1960’s and 70’s. Many of these birds are still alive today and are the core breeding population. Together, hybridisation and an ageing population mean that long-term management of the captive population is becoming less sustainable.

Advances in methods for measuring and summarising genetic variability are now allowing zoo managers to better manage the flamingo population. Flamingo Land’s Collections and Records Manager has recently been appointed Co-Chair of the BIAZA Flamingo Focus Group (FFG). In this role he will assist the UK’s zoos in untangling the historic mixing, encouraging sustainable breeding and eliminating hybridisation. One key recommendation of the FFG to improve welfare and breeding success has been for zoos to only keep collections of at least 20 birds, but preferably at least 40, and without mixing species. As hosts to the FFG annual meeting in 2009, Flamingo Land are keen supporters of this initiative.

Two members of zoo staff are also members of the Flamingo Specialist Group, a global network of conservation experts working to better conserve wild populations.