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Scientists to discover why flamingos are in the pink of health -- in the poo!
Date:3/11/2008

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 fun
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Contact: Dr. David Harper
dmh@le.ac.uk
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert

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