February 25, 2022

Helping our Flamingo Friends

Denver zoo expands peruvian field conservation efforts to include endangered chilean flamingos

As a zoo-based conservation organization, our reach extends so much farther than the 3,000 wild and wonderful animals under our care here in Denver. Since 1996, Denver Zoo has supported or directly participated in more than 600 conservation projects in 62 countries spanning six continents.

Denver Zoo’s Peruvian field conservation efforts began in 2007, with work to protect two endemic species: the critically endangered Lake Titicaca frog (LTF) and endangered Lake Junin frog (LJF). Both of these alpine amphibians are indicator species, which means that biologists can use their health to measure the overall strength of the ecosystems in which they live.

Now, with a trusted team of partners in place and a series of successes to celebrate, we’re expanding our Peruvian conservation work to include one of the most beloved species on campus: Chilean flamingos.

Critical Habitat Under Encroachment 

The largest lake entirely within Peruvian territory, Lake Junin stands at 13,395 feet above sea level. In addition to being home to eight different species found nowhere else in the world (including the Lake Junin frog), this unique aquatic ecosystem is critical to the survival of numerous species—including Phoenicopterus chilensis, the Chilean flamingo.

Lake Junin is at the northernmost extent of their range, and is one of the highest-known lakes where this species congregates in significant numbers. We know from our research on the LJF that Lake Junin is plagued by heavy metal contamination due to local mining operations; and, because it’s used for hydroelectric power generation, it’s also subject to fluctuating water levels. While no scientific studies currently exist, anecdotal evidence suggests that both of these environmental stressors—in combination with illegal hunting and egg collection—contribute to flamingo population declines.

Denver Zoo Supports First-Ever Flamingo Census

In late 2020, Denver Zoo partnered with Peruvian non-profit ECOAN and Junin National Reserve to conduct the first-ever Lake Junin Flamingo Census. Fewer than 3,000 flamingos were recorded—the lowest number since studies of this species began in 2010. Our team replicated this survey in November of 2021 and February of 2022, and will conduct additional research about additional threats, population and distribution as we work to develop a more comprehensive regional conservation strategy.

It’s all part of our ongoing commitment to world-class animal care for the animals who call Denver Zoo home—and protecting their counterparts in the wild as well.

Want to get a leg up on flocking awesome content? Don’t miss this exciting update about the new flamingo habitat we’re creating, slated to open later this year. And of course, follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates on your favorite flock—and all of our 3,000 amazing animals!  

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