Of the six species of flamingo in the world four are restricted to the Americas, and of these, three occur in South America. Two of them live in salt flats and freshwater lakes of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina whereas one ranges through much of southern South America as far as Tierra del Fuego.
These long-lived birds—they can live as much as 50 years—are unmistakable with their long necks and legs, large down-curved bills and striking pink coloring. They filter minute animal and plant plankton from shallow lagoons often churning the bed with their feet. All species are of conservation concern.
Flamingos fly from one lake to another depending on the availability of food and breeding conditions, often going from one country to another. Conservation of flamingos therefore has to be a coordinated international effort. Many areas used by flamingos are hard to reach often making research and conservation efforts difficult.
Research and the transfer of data to management plays a key role in flamingo conservation. Education helps raise awareness for the threats that face these unique and spectacular bird species.
To ensure healthy populations of all three species of flamingo in southern South America.
WCS and other organizations monitor flamingo populations and breeding colonies in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia. We are evaluating the degree of threat to the all three flamingo species, promoting the creation and strengthening of protected areas in key lagoons and working with government departments and mining companies to reduce the effect of mining practices on flamingos.
Destruction of habitat by large mining operations and use of freshwater for towns and cities from high Andean lakes is the most serious threat to flamingos in the high Andes. Disturbance of breeding colonies by people, domestic animals, gulls and introduced invasive species such as European boar are severe threats to all three species.
WCS was instrumental in the creation of the Andean Flamingo Conservation Group which has led the effort to protect flamingos in the Andes of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina for over ten years.