The Phoenicoparrus genus is composed of two species: the Andean flamingo (P. andinus) and the James flamingo (P. jamesi). The abundance of the populations has been declining since 1986.2,3 Sudden death episodes have been described in those species; however, the cause, or a link to human activities, has not been reported.1
The objectives of our study were to assess the health status of free-ranging flamingo populations and to improve the capture methods in terms of safety and effectiveness.
The first sampling campaign was performed in November 2002 in the Salar de Atacama, II district, Chile (23° 18'31"S, 68°08'25" W, at 2,330 m above sea level). Thirty-two flamingos (11 Andean, 21 James) were captured with foot traps (n=8) or during night captures with nets (n=24). The second sampling campaign was performed in March 2002, in Surire I district (18° 50' 42" S, 68° 59' 21"W, at 4,283 m above sea level). Nineteen flamingos (7 Andean, 12 James) were captured with foot traps (n=1) or during night captures with nets (n=18).
The animals were weighed and then physically examined and tagged. Swabs were obtained from the cloaca and oral cavity for culture. Blood samples were collected for complete blood cell counts, biochemical analysis and serology. Fresh fecal samples were obtained for parasitology.
The Andean flamingos weighed an average of 2.86±0.34 kg, while the James flamingos weighed 2.32±0.32 kg. The average of white cell count was 8,084.62±2,584.52 cells/mm3 for the Andean flamingos, and 5,909.58±1,615.87 cells/mm3 for the James flamingo. Percent cell volume averaged 44.06±8.03% for Andean flamingos, and 45.13±5.57% for James flamingos. The most frequent bacteria isolated from the cloaca and choana was Bacillus spp. In addition, Penicillium and Aspergillus were identified in both species. Antibodies were present for influenza virus (n=4), Newcastle disease virus (n=11), and eastern and western equine encephalitis diseases virus (n=2). Fecal samples were negative. At necropsy, one Andean flamingo was found heavily parasitized with Flamingolepis spp. Two hundred Flamingolepis tapeworms were recovered from a James flamingo. This parasite has not previously been reported in this species.
This project is supported by Wildlife Trust and Parque Metropolitano de Santiago.
1. Hulbert, S.H. and E. Flores. Mortalidad de los flamencos en Laguna Colorada, Bolivia en 986-1987. 1988. EN: Parada, M., Rottman, J. Y C. Guerra. I Taller Internacional de Especialistas en Flamencos Sudamericanos. Conaf. San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. 218.
2. Parada, M. 1988. Flamencos en el norte de chile, distribuci6n, abundancia y fluctuaciones estacionales en el numero. En: Parada, M., Rottman, J. Y C. Guerra, eds. I Taller Internacional de Especialistas en Flamencos Sudamericanos. Conaf. San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. 218.
3. Rodriguez, E. and J.P. Contreras. 1998. Conservaci6n de flamencos en Chile. En: Valverde, V, ed. Conservacion de la Fauna Nativa de Chile: Logros y Perspectivas. Conaf. Santiago, Chile.