An air rescue operation is under way to save thousands of baby flamingos in drought-hit South Africa.
A reservoir in Kimberley hosts one of the country’s largest flamingo populations and is drying up, with the site now containing the bodies of hundreds of dead chicks.
Three thousand other chicks have already been saved.
Another 6,000 to 8,000 young flamingos remain at the Northern Cape reservoir but are still too young to fly.
If the water levels keep dropping the parents might abandon the chicks to save themselves, experts said
The heat is causing the birds’ eggs to lose their cool, moist protective covers and their inner membranes are hardening.
The change in the shells is making it difficult for baby flamingos to peck their way out.
Predators such as meerkats, dogs and hawks are nearby waiting for the exhausted chicks to peck their way out.
The baby flamingos can be heard cheeping inside overheating eggs.
Local and national groups, along with environmental authorities, have stepped in for a rescue operation organised online and by word of mouth.
Bird experts and veterinarians have pitched in.
Local diamond mines paid for an emergency flight to carry the first batch of the 900 chicks to the capital Pretoria.
Other batches have been flown to Cape Town and other approved locations.
The chicks in new homes face a special diet of baby cereal, sardines, eggs, prawns and vitamin supplements.
To simulate parents, feather dusters are placed in the chicks’ boxes.
Interaction with humans is restricted beyond feeding to minimise imprinting.
Infrared lights give warmth.
Some of the flamingo chicks’ rescuers are already thinking about next year and what to do if drought occurs again.
(c) Sky News 2019: Thousands of baby flamingos saved in drought-hit South Africa