This past week, zoo officials were agog with excitement over the arrival of several Caribbean flamingos donated by the San Diego Zoo to proudly take up pride of place in the new exhibit. On Thursday March 03, the birds arrived safely and were received by two representatives from that Zoo, Janice Owlett and Athena Wilson, who were sent beforehand to ensure that the birds settle down well after such a lengthy transfer. Ms. Wilson, a senior keeper at San Diego Zoo for the past six years has the primary responsibility of looking after the flamingos there and stayed back an extra week just to make sure that the birds were thriving. During her stay, Ms. Wilson invested time in training our local zookeepers in proper handling and husbandry of the birds.
As for the facility itself which was specially designed for the flamingos and other waterfowl species, this was given a thumbs up by the two keepers. Ms Owlett, the Animal Care Supervisor for Birds was high in praise for the new phase of the zoo, and had this to say, “This facility is one of the best I have seen anywhere, and I am confident that our birds will be comfortable here.”
Also taking the time to visit the birds on Thursday March 03, the very day of their arrival was the Honourable Minister in the Ministry of Tourism, Dr. Delmon Baker who has been monitoring the overall progress of the zoo upgrade. While on site, he met the two representatives from San Diego Zoo and conveyed thanks through them to the institution for its support. Dr. Baker when asked for his comments, stated, “The Zoo is among the foremost signature tourist destinations for both locals and foreigners, and it is important that we present a world-class product. I am astounded by the beauty of the flamingos and cannot wait to share this with the public.”
Although this is not the first time that the Emperor Valley Zoo will be showcasing flamingos, this time around promises to be bigger and better. Not to be confused with its relative, the Scarlet Ibis, which some locals refer to as the “flamingo”, this bird is beautiful with its pink plumage and graceful in its movement. Weighing between 2 -5 kilograms, these birds have long, spindly legs, gracefully curved necks and famously bright pink feathers, feet and legs. The wingspan may reach up to 1.4 metres. The hooked bill is pink with a black tip; no other bird has one like it. Flamingos are gregarious wading birds in the genus Phoenicopterus, the only genus in the family Phoenicopteridae.
There are four flamingo species in the Americas and two species in the Old World.
Flamingos often stand on one leg, the other tucked beneath the body to allow the birds to conserve more body heat. As well as standing in the water, flamingos may stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir up food from the bottom. Young flamingos hatch with grey plumage, but adults range from light pink to bright red due to aqueous bacteria and beta carotene obtained from their food supply. A well-fed, healthy flamingo is more vibrantly coloured and thus a more desirable mate. Captive flamingos are a notable exception; many turn a pale pink as they are not fed carotene at levels comparable to the wild. This is changing as more zoos begin to add prawns and other supplements to the diets of their flamingos.
President of the Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago, Gupte Lutchmedial when contacted about the arrival of the flamingos, said, “We are happy to have this collaboration with the San Diego Zoo, and for us this is just the start. There is still much to do for the other exhibits and that will be our focus for this period.” He was thrilled though with the flamingos reaching safely and promised that zoo patrons will not be disappointed with this exhibit.