By Maria Montecelos |
Montecristi (Dominican R.), (EFE) after having been a mere ornamental element in hotels in the country.
This Sunday EFE attended the first release of flamingos from the Rescate Rosado project, which returned six specimens of this migratory bird to their natural habitat, voluntarily handed over by hotel establishments and which lived their first dawn in freedom together with five other birds born in the Zoo National.
Determined, the group of birds headed towards the waters of the lagoon while the team involved in the project held their breath. The emotion came when they saw that they flapped their wings, went to the water and began to eat naturally (sometimes it is necessary to feed them freely for a while).
Its insertion in the Estero Balsa mangroves, one of the most important in the country and recently incorporated into the Ramsar Convention for the protection of wetlands, was a success and other specimens that remain in the area were even added.
Here they will have their home, in a fairly well-preserved area with coastal lagoons, the preferred habitat for flamingos, where they find shelter, food and tranquility.
migratory birds that will not migrate
The young specimens raised in the zoo will probably migrate with other conspecifics in the spring, but the six from the hotels will not be able to do so, because, when they are captured, they undergo surgery on one wing that prevents them from making a prolonged flight.
“The last phalanx of one of their wings is removed, which is where the primary feathers are inserted”, and, having the primary feathers only on one wing, they lack the necessary balance to fly, “they will not fly anymore, they will stay on land,” the head of animal welfare and training at the National Zoo, Luis Freites, explained to EFE.
Poachers hunt them in the estuaries where they land every year to sell them on the black market with rustic traps made of small stakes and nylon string ties placed at the bottom of the wetlands, barely visible in the water and that environmentalists remove by the hundreds. .
The release is preceded by a whole process: once rescued, the flamingos are quarantined at the zoo, where they are evaluated and trained before being returned to the wild so that they can feed in their natural environment.
«The first thing is to change their diet because in hotels they are served dog or cat food, which is a bit inappropriate. Here we put a fish food that is formulated with many crustaceans” and enriched with nutrients and fiber, and that “greatly improves their color” because the characteristic pink tone of their plumage is due to their diet, Freites said.
In addition, blood samples are taken from them, their respiratory system is checked for pathogens so that they do not carry microbes to their natural habitat and, when they are to be released, a final test is carried out.
Pink bailout strategy
For twenty years, the Ministry of the Environment’s fight against the practice of poaching focused on controlling the possession of these birds, but the method was not effective, so in 2020 an alternative was proposed and the blue flag certification for hotels emerged. , declared to EFE the Vice Minister of Protected Areas and Biodiversity, Federico Franco.
These establishments, “instead of having flamingos to decorate,” have a certificate of their respect for wildlife and thus began the Rescate Rosado project, he said.
The Iberostar Group and Viva Resort were the first to join the initiative, designed so that, in addition to delivering the animals, the hotel covers their food, vaccinations and necessary transportation.
For this, a contract was made between the Ministry of the Environment, the National Zoo and the Alianza Animal bird-watching NGO, to which the hotels make the donation to cover the expenses, Franco explained.
He pointed out that Rescate Rosado will continue with an average release of between 25 and 35 specimens per month (always after complying with veterinary protocols), until reaching just over 200 animals from Dominican hotels already counted in the initiative in ten months, although it is estimated that there may be as many as 350 flamingos in captivity in the country.
In the Ministry they trust that there will be a contagion effect from the hotels, which will have about a year to deliver the flamingos voluntarily. From then on, the audit will resume and establishments and individuals that deprive the flamencos of their freedom will be penalized.