SAVING THE ANDEAN FLAMINGO

The big, beautiful Andean flamingo is one of three flamingo species native to the Andes. A relatively long-lived bird, this flamingo can travel vast distances — from 200 to more than 700 miles in a single day. Its movement appears to be highly influenced by environmental factors, particularly the status of its preferred habitat in the high Andean wetlands, whose aquifers must be recharged every summer. Unfortunately, these wetlands — and the flamingo — face a variety of threats, including mineral extraction and water diversion. Salt, borax, ulexite, sulphur, sodium carbonate, lithium and many other minerals found in the Andean wetlands are being mined unsustainably, and the wetlands’ water itself is being diverted to support the mining, as well as agriculture, urban development and tourism.

More than a decade after ornithologists first petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Andean flamingo under the Endangered Species Act, the agency still hadn’t moved forward with listing, claiming that while the flamingo warranted federal protection, its listing was “precluded” by other priorities. So in 2003, the Center stepped in with a lawsuit aimed at gaining protections for the Andean flamingo and 72 other rare birds from around the world. Finally, in 2010, the Service officially announced it would protect the Andean flamingo as endangered.