Is a man-made island saving our flamingos?


Kimberley will always be South Africa’s diamond city. But recently it has found itself dressed less in sparkling gems than bright pink. A blush of colour vast enough to overwhelm even the most stoic fuchsia fan has consumed the area. Flamingos. Lesser Flamingos, to be exact. They’ve arrived by special invitation in the form of a man-made island designed to entice the gangly birds to breed. The formation of this new breeding ground is vital to their survival.

Mark Anderson is a biologist with a keen interest in innovative conservation who has studied the Lesser Flamingo population at Kamfers Dam for two decades. The birds are classified as near threatened, with the decline in their numbers due to their only breeding in three locations around the world, one each in Namibia, Botswana and Tanzania. Now there’s a fourth – Kimberley. Anderson observed the flock try and fail to breed in the area and, grasping their need for a particular habitat, instigated the building of the 6000m2 island in the middle of the dam. Though at first cautious of the new development, the birds have since done their part.

Awareness of the worsening condition of earth’s health has permeated global consciousness thanks to the efforts of the media, environmentalists and scholars. There is no excuse for not realising the importance of reducing our mark on nature. For those who have been wrestling with the subject for a while longer the focus is shifting towards how we can convert the impact we have from negative to positive. Anderson’s flamingo project has done this with remarkable effectiveness, enabling a dying population of birds to resurrect their numbers. When it comes to saving our planet, it’s no longer about what has been or what is, but what could be.