Conservationists are caring for 2,000 flamingo chicks after they were abandoned by their parents in a dried-out dam in South Africa.
Rescuers airlifted the baby birds from Kamfers Dam, in the northern Cape province, on Jan. 28 in a desperate attempt to save them, the BBC reported.
They are being currently being looked after at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) rescue center in Cape Town, where they are being treated and fed liquified mixture of sardines, shrimp, eggs, and porridge, until they are healthy enough to return to the wild.
Kamfers Dam is home to tens of thousands of lesser flamingos, but harsh summer heat and a reported lack of water being pumped into the dam caused water to drop to low levels. It’s not clear exactly why this caused flamingo parents to abandon their chicks.
“These chicks arrived in a very bad condition since a lot of them were dehydrated, they were tiny — some of them were just coming out of their eggs — so we had a little bit of a problem with infections,” Katta Ludynia, the research manager at SANCCOB, told CNN.
According to Ludynia, many of the baby birds are in stable condition, and receive medical treatment and regular feeds. In between feeds, they are also fed electrolyte fluids to aid their rehydration.
In videos posted by SANCCOB to their social media pages, the chicks can be seen getting fed, walking, and preening in the sunshine at the facility, after spending time under incubation heat lamps to aid their development.
On Wednesdy, SANCCOB said there are still 49 chicks incubated and receiving intensive care treatment in the facility’s Chick Rearing Unit.
One video showed the chicks interacting with a donated flamingo plush toy, which has served as a “parental figure.”
The baby flamingos are expected to remain at SANCCOB for another “three to four months,” although it’s not known exactly if they would be returned to their birthplace or released elsewhere after they are strong enough.
South Africa, including the southern city of Cape Town, has been struggling with extreme water shortages in recent years, with the southern hemisphere summer of 2018 particularly dry, according to CNN.
In an interview with CNN last year, geographer and climate expert at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg Jasper Knight said: “The situation in Cape Town is almost a foretaste of what is likely to come in cities worldwide.”