Maryland Zoo journeys to South Africa to help save abandoned flamingo chicks

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore has joined efforts in South Africa to help support the rescue and rehabilitation of nearly 300 lesser flamingo chicks that were abandoned during an extreme drought in January.

A press release states Jess Phillips, the area manager for Penguin Coast at The Maryland Zoo, was sent to support the rehabilitation process at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) in Cape Town on Friday, Feb. 1.

A longtime conservation partner of the zoo, SANCCOB operates a seabird rescue and rehabilitation facility in Cape Town. Maryland Zoo staff have helped with African penguin rehabilitation in the past few years, according to the release.

In January, the Kamfers Dam in Kimberley -- a 1,200-acre lake about 600 miles from the South African coast -- began to dry up "due to extreme drought conditions." This caused thousands of nesting lesser flamingos to abandon their egg clutches and chicks, the zoo states, "due to lack of food to feed the chicks."

The abandoned chicks were flown to several facilities in South Africa, including SANCCOB, and arrived there by plane on Jan. 28, according to the zoo.

"I am supervising a group of chicks I am assigned to each day - usually between 75-100 birds," said Phillips. "My duties include preparing the food, feeding, checking each bird for health issues, cleaning pens, moving chicks to outside areas, and monitoring them during my shift."

For more information on the emergency flamingo rescue, click here.