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Following the Changes of Flagship Species to Understand the Environment

“A flagship species is a species that acts as a symbol for a habitat, issue, or environmental campaign. Focusing on, and achieving conservation of that species may also improve the status of many other species which share its habitat or are vulnerable to the same threats.”

Once a year, responding to something unknown, thousands of flamingos take off from the Walvis Bay Lagoon. Some say this mass departure is in response to a sound or smell, whatever the reason flamingos depart in mass to journey to the Etosha Pan to do their annual breeding. So much speculation surrounds their reasons for their epic journey and major change in environment, but whatever the reason not only is it an amazing site but it acts as a beacon for conservationists to understand the environment and other species.

Flamingos In Article Image

Tracking the flight paths of wetland flagships
Dr. Ann Scott & Mike Scott

Large birds such as flamingos and cranes are universally regarded as charismatic flagships for wetland conservation. Clearly there is much to learn, as both the Greater Flamingo and the Lesser Flamingo are classified as vulnerable in Namibia and the Lesser Flamingo is also globally threatened (IUCN).

The aim of the “Flight Paths for Wetland Flagships” Project is to track the flight paths of flagship wetland bird species in order to highlight and address major conservation issues outside protected areas.

Flamingos make two kinds of movements – short, daily flights between feeding/roosting areas, in Namibia mainly along the coast; and longer seasonal migrations inland for breeding purposes, provided that there have been good rains inland. They will then move back to the coast at the end of the rainy season. Their flight paths are believed to be from the central coast of Namibia to Etosha/Bushmanland, on to Botswana, and back again. However, if the rains have not been suitable in terms of either timing or sufficient quantities, the birds will not waste energy in a futile attempt to breed. This means that migrations inland may not take place for several years.

Because they often fly at night and in groups, they are prone to collisions with overhead structures. On these probably ancient migration routes, man-made structures such as power lines would present an unforeseen threat.

For more information on how conservationists are tracking the flight paths of Namibia’s flamingos to understand what is happening in the environment, take a look at the Travel News Namibia article here : Tracking the Flight Paths of Wetland Flagships