Flamingos are threatened by mining operations in the high Andes. BirdLife International, working with Rio Tinto, has formed a partnership with Grupo para la Conservacion de Flamencos Altitudinos in order to develop a more strategic approach to flamingo conservation.
The high-Andes wetlands and their associated flora and fauna are threatened by mining expansion, underground water pumping, geothermal energy production, gas pipelines and power lines, unregulated tourism, overgrazing and egg collection. The lowland wetlands are threatened by agricultural activities, unregulated hunting and tourism, and water diversion and habitat alteration resulting from road and dam construction and other industrial projects.
Puna Flamingo Phoenicoparrus jamesi (considered Near Threatened on the 2010 IUCN Red List) and Andean Flamingo P. andinus (Vulnerable) are mostly restricted to the high mountain lakes of the altiplano of Peru, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, although they can be found in lowland wetlands of central Argentina, particularly in winter. Effects of mining (and their associated demand for water) are little known, but could be extreme if unregulated, especially at lowland sites where pumping reduces lake size and water levels (Romano et al. 2006). Such changes would decrease feeding habitats, which is important because breeding success depends on food intake and the resulting condition of the birds.
With such concerns in mind, the Rio Tinto-BirdLife International program established a partnership between Aves Argentinas (the BirdLife Partner in Argentina) and Grupo para la Conservacion de Flamencos Altitudinos (GCFA). Together the partnership aims to: (1) strengthen knowledge about Andean Flamingo ecology, population dynamics and wide-ranging movements, and (2) Develop a ‘Network of Wetlands of Importance for Flamingo Conservation’. Through the establishment of a regional network of priority sites, BirdLife International aim to:
In the face of the expanding mining and other development pressures on these wetland ecosystems and landscapes, this approach promises to deliver an outcome that has the best chance of minimising negative impacts while facilitating positive relationships with the mining companies.
Compiled 2008, updated 2010
BirdLife International (2008) Working together to conserve flamingos at a network of sites in the High Andes. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/casestudy/292. Checked: 02/10/2014
|Key message: Safeguard measures for development finance are essential|