The Kimberley, Kamfers Dam, Lesser Flamingo event of 2019

The following are the untold facts as per the PAAZA facilities, the ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector, perspective (referred to as : the 'In a Controlled Environment' Wildlife facilities / 'Captive facilities' / 'Zoos & Aquaria')

As is noted by politicians and scientists alike, misinformation in the present time of a global pandemic is a major challenge to deal with. Sadly, this trend has found its way into conservation and particularly with respect to the ex-situ facilities, especially Zoos and Aquaria (known as 'In a Controlled Environment' facility) that dedicate their lives and resources to saving wildlife.

With reference to the Lesser Flamingo event that occurred in Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa in 2019, we would like to offer the following facts. These facts are based on verified data-sets which were collated by PAAZA and reported to relevant authorities, these being the only entities to which PAAZA and its Accredited facilities are accountable.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Whilst reading the below facts, it must always be remembered that the ex-situ sector of Wildlife Conservation did NOT implement or initiate the rescue event. This action was undertaken entirely by the private sector.

It was only when the private sector had moved chicks out of their Province of origin, Northern Cape, and the private sector discovered that they could not handle the situation, that the ex-situ sector was approached by Nature Conservation Authorities to assist. Only at this stage did PAAZA Accredited facilities agree to offer their enormous expertise, qualified wildlife personnel and specialised infrastructures to care for the Lesser Flamingo chicks.

THE FACTS as never before publicised by the ex-situ Sub-Sector

Opening Fact

One thing the long-term monitoring research is already showing is the extremely wide dispersal of the flock from the release site in Kimberley. This means that the birds are Res Nulis (belong to nobody) and although born in Kimberley, they find residency as far away as Namibia. A question being raised by the research team is: "Does the reverse apply?" i.e. do birds born at the other two Southern hemisphere breeding sites disperse in a similar fashion. The other aspect that is becoming very evident is the variety in predation.

Short Form Fact Summary - The below is meant to capture the overall picture and is not to be seen as a detailed report which will follow in due course and be submitted to National Environmental Affairs

  • Was this event initiated by the ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector - NO
  • Was it initiated by the private sector - YES
  • Was the ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector involved in the rescue process - NO
  • Did the private sector know what was involved in 'rescue and rehabilitation' of this magnitude - NO
  • Did the private sector have the means and knowledge to undertake such a 'rescue and rehabilitation' - NO
  • Did the private sector appeal to the ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector to assist - YES
  • Did the ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector agree to assist - YES, but only after consultation and approval by Gauteng Nature Conservation (GDARD)
  • Did GDARD specify criteria for the ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector facilities that could accept chicks - YES, only PAAZA Accredited facilities based in Gauteng
  • Did the ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector work in conjunction with the National Department of Environmental Affairs - YES, through a collaboration between National Zoological Garden (NZG) and PAAZA
  • Were any of the rescued chicks translocated from their home province by the PAAZA facilities - NO
  • Were any of the rescued chicks translocated from their home province by the private sector - YES, in a private jet, Gauteng being the first followed by Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal
  • Were all facilities selected by PAAZA - NO, only the Gauteng based PAAZA facilities
  • Did the ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector develop a species plan as per IUCN guidelines - YES, this was compiled by Gauteng Nature Conservation Scientific Services and approved at a National meeting
  • Did the ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector develop protocols relevant to the species plan - YES
  • Were these followed by the non-PAAZA Accredited facilities - NO
  • Was the health criteria related to the species plan advised and supported by qualified Wildlife Vets - YES, including South Africa's top research and academic Veterinary facility
  • Was a research project established by ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector - YES, in conjunction with Kimberley University and Nelson Mandela University (NMU).
  • Was the initial live tracking (the core of the research project) funded by ex-situ Wildlife sub-sector - YES, through a registered National Research Foundation (NRF) research facility, BCRE (affiliated to NMU CMR)
  • Was the rehabilitation operations of the PAAZA facilities extensively supported from within the Zoo and Aquarium sub-sector - YES and continues to do so
  • Has the Zoo and Aquarium sub-sector received any financial support from the Northern Cape Province (DENC) as was promised - NO, this despite various submissions of shortfalls and daily/weekly requirements
  • Was the establishment of the temporary quarantine facility in Kimberley funded and staffed by experienced animal carers from the Zoo and Aquarium sub-sector - YES. The use of the ground for the establishment of the temporary quarantine facility as well as utility services, was donated by SPCA Kimberley
  • Did PAAZA donate the assets of the temporary quarantine facility to SPCA Kimberley at the end of the scheduled initial translocation - YES, by way of official letter dated 28 June 2019 including asset list
  • Did PAAZA develop release criteria and a plan for translocation of rehabilitated birds - YES
  • Was PAAZA or the Zoo and Aquarium sub-sector responsible for the release of the birds from the quarantine facility in Kimberley - NO, DENC appointed the private sector for this process
  • Were all the rehabilitated birds which were translocated to Kimberley released as per the release criteria and release plan - NO, PAAZA extended the final release date by 30 days
  • Were all the birds in the Kimberley quarantine facility ready for release by end May 2019 - YES
  • Were they all released by the private sector - NO, despite the birds meeting the release criteria and the advice of Scientists. A small group were withheld and the temporary pen partitioned by the private sector. This resulted in the death of at least two birds due to the fact that they were trying to fly in a restricted / confined area
  • Does the Zoo sub-sector continue to care for birds - YES, those that would not be able to fend for themselves if released and those with recurring Pox (at a facility dedicated to these particular candidates)
  • Does the Zoo sub-sector still hold birds that can be released - YES, these are what were termed 'long term care' candidates
  • Are all these birds under one Provincial Nature Conservation authority - YES, Gauteng
  • Are all these birds in one facility - NO. Special care birds are at Montecasino Bird Gardens, non-releasable and long-term care (did not meet release criteria for original translocation) at NZG, and Pox infected / recurring Pox virus birds at Lory Park (the ONLY facility holding Pox birds)
  • Does Gauteng have a 'unidentified / unknown' strain of Pox virus - NO, definitely NOT, however, it could be a different genetic class
  • Has DENC been advised that these 'long term care' birds are ready for release - YES, 14th August 2019 and 25th November 2019. Translocation guidelines were also drafted and communicated to DENC. All communication to date goes unanswered. In addition, NO permit application for export has been received by GDARD from DENC. These birds remain in the care of the NZG
  • Has PAAZA on behalf of the Accredited facilities, compiled status-quo reports and submitted it to GDARD and in turn DENC - YES, and all birds in the care of PAAZA Accredited facilities are entered into an International inventory system. In addition, any deaths are reported to GDARD as per protocol
  • Has PAAZA created a public information portal - YES,

The Rehabilitation Statistics

GP (private)
Rescued chicks moved from Kby to various facilities
NOTE: These are estimates based on verbal information from
the Private sector responsible for the rescue and initial translocations

Repatriated to Kby
(not necessarily released - release records not available to PAAZA)
Survival Rate

GP also dealt with all the serious health compromised cases through Onderstepoort Academic Hospital
As at 31 July 2020, 186 birds remain in specialist care within three GP facilities.

The Financial Statistics

As was agreed at the initial meeting of all role players including National and Provincial Authorities, it is crucial that each and every facility involved with the event, comply with the requirement of financial transparency. This would form part of the final report in order to supply National Environmental Affairs with the most accurate 'cost of-event' (totals only).
It must be noted that the event was seen as an opportunity for many private organisations to fund raise and even though there have been multiple requests to every organisation and private facilities to submit accountant verified financials, only two entities have complied as at 31 July 2020:

Mike Bolhuis disbursements
Prepared by Bergsma Accountants for Mike Bolhuis: The Flamingo Project NPO
Local Travel
Volunteer Expenses
Pretoria Facility
Flamingo Food
Bank Charges
Total Disbursement

PAAZA disbursements (donations mainly from the International Zoo and Aquarium community)
Prepared by SRE Developments for PAAZA
The below does not include support / running costs or staffing costs of the PAAZA facilities.
Local Travel
Volunteer Expenses
Kimberley Facility
PAAZA Facility
Bank Charges
Total Disbursement
R1 049,968
R1 142,291

Estimated Costs incurred by PAAZA GP facilities for long term care June 2019 through July 2020
The below was presented to relevant authorities as requested, including DENC.
13 months Care @ R 33 500.00 per month
R 435 500.00

In addition to these estimated costs are the shortfalls as reflected in the financial statistics above as well as the ongoing costs being incurred by the PAAZA GP facilities. As at 31 July 2020, no financial relief has been forthcoming despite many verbal commitments by DENC.

Assets transferred to SPCA Kimberley

The entire assets of the Temporary Quarantine facility which was financed through donations for the Zoo and Aquarium community, the 'In a Controlled environment' Wildlife sub-sector, amounting to R 242 383.00 were transferred with NO conditions to SPCA Kimberley on 28 June 2019.

The Man-hours involved

The below is an estimation of man-hours within PAAZA facilities only for the period February to July 2019 based on the assumptions /average: 16hours daily; 2 perm staff; 2 interns; 4 volunteers.

  • Animal Carers Total for ONE facility: 12932 man-hours / 1.48 man-years
  • Veterinary Care for ONE facility: 5368 man-hours / 0.61 man-years
  • Logistics for ONE facility: 1830 man-hours / 0.21 man-years
  • TOTAL Man-Years for Gauteng PAAZA facilities: 6.73 man-years

To read the full report as sent to GDARD on the 18th of August 2020
Click here