Navigation Links
Scientists to discover why flamingos are in the pink of health -- in the poo!

A University of Leicester ecologist is setting out to discover why flamingos are so in the pink of health - in the poo!

Dr David Harper, of the Department of Biology at the University of Leicester, has been studying lesser flamingos for nine years.

His research has been carried out in the lakes of East Africa but new investigations he has carried out for the first time in India have- by his own admission given him rather a shock.

He said: Lesser flamingos are graceful, majestic, birds. They are not the ones you can see at the zoo, because they are very difficult to maintain in captivity, but the ones that you see on television in their hundreds of thousands, crowded into a few specialist lakes in East Africa.

I have been studying them, on these lakes in Kenya and Tanzania, but earlier this month I returned from India, having carried out a preliminary investigation of the population there, and I had rather a shock.

In Africa the lesser flamingo, with its beautiful pink plumage, stands for everything that is pure and pristine. Many of the lakes where it feeds, occasionally with a million birds crowded together when the food is good, are almost untouched by mans activities.

In complete contrast to Africa, where lesser flamingos only live on inland soda lakes and are never seen at the coast, in India I watched 20,000 lesser flamingos happily feeding on tidal mudflats in front of an oil refinery, a petrochemical plant and creeks bringing untreated waste from millions of people in the slums of Bombay.

In Porbandar, the city which is the birthplace of Mahatma Ghandi, in Gujarat to the north of Bombay, I watched 8,000 standing knee deep and happily filtering-feeding in the water alongside rubbish, cowpats and wastewater running in from surrounding houses and factories.

In western India and Gujarat in particular, people love flamingos it is the states national emblem.

Dr Harper was funded by the Darwin Initiative and now plans to write a full grant proposal to link with Indian universities and conservation groups to better understand how flamingos can thrive in waste water and how the peoples love of these birds can be turned into a love of everything natural.

Dr Harper added: Bombay is on very low-lying land that once was just a few islands in the estuary, but now about 20 million people are crammed into this city. They need the estuary and all its ecology to help clean up their wastes and even protect them against flooding. We are planning to use the flamingo to help people understand the benefits of mud and mangroves less pretty but far more useful to them!

In Africa, Dr Harper and members of his team have satellite-tagged birds to find exactly where they go, studied their feeding and their behaviour and why sometimes several thousand die suddenly. His wife, Maureen, has used them as a teaching theme in schools near their lakes and written stories about them for the pupils. They have been funded by the UK Darwin Initiative, part of the British Government, which sends specialists from this country to help other countries, richer in biodiversity, protect their priceless natural heritage.

Dr Harper said: The deaths of lesser flamingos in East Africa over the past 15 years have sometimes been blamed on poisoning from mankinds industries or the consequence of too much fertiliser or human wastes in the lakes.

But people who blame human wastes should go to India to see how well lesser flamingos thrive and how pink they grow, when they are surrounded by heavy industry and by water so polluted I could smell it a mile away!


Contact: Dr. David Harper
University of Leicester

Related biology news :

1. Scientists believe photograph depicts wolverine in California
2. Scientists successfully treat new mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease
3. Genes hold the key to how happy we are, scientists say
4. Scientists uncover a novel mechanism that regulates carbon dioxide fixation in plants
5. Bright lights: Mystery of glowing antibody solved by Scripps research scientists
6. Scientists discover how cigarette smoke causes cancer: Study points to new treatments, safer tobacco
7. Exeter scientists pour cold water on EU bird policy
8. Yale scientists create artificial cells that boost the immune response to cancer
9. Scientists unravel the genetic coding of the pea
10. Scientists discover giant fossil frog from hell
11. Advertisers, neuroscientists trace source of emotions in brain
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/9/2015)... Nov. 09, 2015 ... of the "Global Law Enforcement Biometrics ... --> ) has announced ... Enforcement Biometrics Market 2015-2019" report to ... Markets ( ) has announced the ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... , November 4, 2015 ... new market report published by Transparency Market Research "Home Security ... Trends and Forecast 2015 - 2022", the global home security ... 30.3 bn by 2022. The market is estimated to ... period from 2015 to 2022. Rising security needs among ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Oct. 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions , an ... spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to announce that ... Association (MHTA) as one of only three finalists for ... – Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor ... shown superior technology innovation and leadership. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/1/2015)... ... 2015 , ... The American Society of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, AAGL, ... will join fellow surgeons in the shared pursuit of “advancing minimally invasive ... founder of Plano Urogynecology Associates and Fellow of the American College of ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... , ... December 01, 2015 , ... Matthew “Tex” VerMilyea, ... post, VerMilyea will oversee all IVF lab procedures as well as continue ... preservation. , “We traveled 7,305 miles to Auckland, New Zealand to bring home a ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... , December 1, 2015 ... addition of the  "2016 U.K. Virology and ... Forecasts for 100 Tests, Supplier Shares by ...  report to their offering.  --> ... the  "2016 U.K. Virology and Bacteriology Testing ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... Global ... practitioners and aesthetics professionals from Central America and abroad for the first Iberoamerican ... City, Panama Feb. 17-19, 2016. Testart will present and discuss new trends in ...
Breaking Biology Technology: