According to BirdLife International, lesser flamingo numbers are falling in Africa largely as a result of development and water pollution.

Proposed housing development on the banks of Kamfers Dam, outside the Northern Cape capital of Kimberley, could further threaten the flamingo population, the organisation said.

Kamfers Dam supports one of only four breeding populations in Africa.

About 9,000 chicks hatched on the dam’s artificial breeding island this year alone and campaigners say regular breeding will reverse the declining numbers of the species.

BirdLife International has accused the local authority of ignoring South Africa’s obligation to protect species such as the lesser flamingo and has called on the country’s Ministry of Environmental Affairs to intervene and block the construction.

The organisation also wants the Department of Water Affairs to insist on better water quality standards in the dam, which campaigners say is polluted by the sewerage treatment plant.

Duncan Pritchard, acting executive director of BirdLife South Africa, said: “Creating the breeding island at Kamfers Dam was a huge investment and its future should not be jeopardised by development or pollution.

“If tests prove the birds’ deformities are being caused by poor water quality, many other species and possibly the entire aquatic system of the dam could be at risk.”

BirdLife is encouraging people to sign an online petition urging the authorities to take action to protect the flamingos.

Last autumn, environmentalists were relieved when the Tanzanian government threw out a plan to build a soda ash plant on Lake Natron, considered to be the world’s most important breeding site for lesser flamingos.

Kate Martin

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