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Pink Siberia - another flamingo is lost after heading north instead of south

By 0 and 0 and 0
04 November 2015


'There is a whole rescue group working there but as soon as they come close to him.' Picture: Ruslan Repkin

But the flamingo has other ideas. The elegant bird evades capture in its new home, but winter is fast approaching and conditions here are very different to the Caspian Sea where it might be expected to have flown.

Sergey Pissarev, director of Barnaul Zoo, said: 'Everyone can take photos of him but no one has managed to catch him. There is a whole rescue group working there but as soon as they come close to him, he flies to a different place. Our employees are in Artybash already. We will try to catch the flamingo with nets. Otherwise, we'll need the bird to get weak. Unfortunately, there is no other way. Anyway, we won't leave the bird.'

The Siberian Times has already focused on the apparently compass failure of these birds, heading deep into Siberia when nature intended them to fly to warmer climes in the south. 

Flamingo on Teletskoye lake

Flamingo on Teletskoye lake

Flamingo on Teletskoye lake

'Everyone can take photos of him but no one has managed to catch him.' Pictures: Ruslan Repkin

As our earlier story revealed, local resident Pavel Shaposhnikov, 29, was in a boat with friends along the Tom River on 25 October when he spotted flamingos. 'I'm shocked,' he posted. 'We've seen flamingos on the Tom river.' Seven of the birds were spotted. Zoologist Nikolai Skalon confirmed the flamingos on their video were the real thing, saying they must have strayed from their flocks and become lost.

'The northernmost nesting of flamingos is central Kazakhstan. And these birds are listed in the Red Book of Russia. This is due to the fact that sometimes they mistakenly fly to the Kuzbass [Kemerovo region], even though they ought to be flying in the opposite direction towards the Caspian Sea. It could be they go astray during the weather changes, in the early autumn storms. Sometimes even pelicans fly to us, but mostly we can see here the flamingos.'

'We sailed closer and began filming them on video, but they did not let us approach,' said Pavel. 'They took off and flew upstream. We decided not to disturb them. They looked sluggish. It's natural because  the climate is wrong for them. At this time, and it was around 10 am on Sunday, and the air temperature dropped to minus 1C.'

Pink flamingos on Tom river

Pink flamingos on Tom river

Flamingo on Tom river

'It could be they go astray during the weather changes, in the early autumn storms.' Pictures: Pavel Shaposhnikov

Pink flamingos have been spotted, too, in the Novochikhinsky district of Altai Region and the Turochaksky district of Altai Republic. Both of the birds were splashing in local lakes. Zoo director Pissarev said: 'The most important thing is to save them. They won't survive the cold.'

He is offering a home to flamingos that can be saved. Other flamingos venturing to Siberia have suffered frostbite in their legs, preventing any rescue. 'They couldn't have been saved. We don't want this situation to repeat,' he said.

But because the bird is classified as endangered, special permission is needed to remove it from the wild. Fisherman Yury Pirozhenko had no time for red tape. He went fishing and suddenly saw the unusual bird. It was weak, was shaking and unable to fly. He caught the bird, took it home, and learned that it is a flamingo after searching the internet. He contacted the zoo about his find.

Flamingo on Altai

Fisherman Yury Pirozhenko went fishing and suddenly saw the unusual bird. Picture: Svetlana Pirozhenko

He also saved its life by almost force feeding it with fish. The flamingo's strength grew and it began eating voluntarily. While Pavel and Yury were surprised, the first recorded case of  flamingos taking the wrong turn was in 1907. There is anecdotal evidence that such wayward flights are becoming more frequent.

Last year four flamingos were found at different locations in Siberia. Skalon, like Pissarev, insists the birds need urgent help as temperatures sink to as low as minus 10C. But why are these birds taking the wrong turn, mistaking south for north? 

Comments (5)

The topic is too complex to convey exact theories Russ and you have stated some fair and true points. I also would prefer to enjoy the beauty of an endangered animal in a zoo than from "extinct list". I am only too aware of limited research resources and that we simply cannot solve every issue, enigmas such as to why spiders run under "the foot of the marching black boot" etc must be stored on the luck of the draw shelf for now but birds are one of the few aerial species that can give us clues to the skies...our ancestors looked to these creatures for a multitude of prophetic warnings. We must ask why these creatures kept flying north whilst feeling rapidly decreasing temperatures, flying towards freezing conditions. Research is needed here sooner rather than later. Extinction of one species leaves a missing piece in the bigger jigsaw, we are all pieces, all endangered and if nature gives us directions to try and prevent rather than stitch up catastrophes we must research. I agree we must protect species in need of our supposedly "superior" wisdom but since it seems to be man that is destroying the planet then perhaps we should not be so arrogant to think it can only be us that has the knowledge but must also look at the ancient and innate instinct of creatures such as these...our own survival may rely on it one day.
Carmen, Ireland
12/11/2015 04:02
Carmen, it is time that we as human citizens of the world, face some facts. Due in large part to the influence of some religions and some states and their resistance to any reasonable form of birth control.... the population of the world is about 9 billion, I say about because we are increasing to fast to have a truly up to date projection. As a direct result of this huge increase, more and more habitat is being turned into a means one way or the other, of supporting all those people. As a direct effect of that habitat loss, more and more populations of the other species who also call the earth home, are becoming seriously endangered, and in many sad cases, extinct. These flamingos are an endangered species. In a very short time those zoos that you are wary of, will become the sole refuge of not just these birds, but of the majority of the larger animals and birds in the world. We do not have the luxury of the research that you have alluded to. We need to take action to save the those individuals that we can. There are just 600 Amur tigers left in the wild as was mentioned in another article on this site, at the same time Vladimir Putin was not so long ago proudly photographed beside one that he had shot dead. Should we research why he did the shooting? Or should we provide immediate protection to the few tigers remaining? An analogy would be the case of a mother whose child has wandered into dense high speed traffic. Should she wait for research to determine why the traffic is so dense or travelling so fast? Or should she rush immediately to her childs rescue? Like it or not, we as the dominant species on Earth are like unto a mother for all those other living creatures. They are in our care, we need to act. No disrespect.
Russ, Northern British Columbia, Canada
10/11/2015 11:52
I feel you have misunderstood my comment Russ, only a lunatic would misjudge the potentially fatal freezing temperatures, nor did I suggest they be given no help. I said I trusted their instinct, if they are off radar then why...of course help them but research why. It is unfortunate enough for them to have deviated into dangerous conditions but even more so they will be captive. Perhaps another way of looking at this Russ is you loosing your own radar and ending up perhaps in America and not being able to return disrespect.
Carmen, Ireland
10/11/2015 05:54
Carmen, I mean no disrespect, but I seriously doubt that you do not really understand what -10 C means, let alone what the -30 or - 40 that will come with the winter. These birds do not stand a chance if they are not helped and the locals are to be thanked for their efforts. As far as trusting the birds instincts goes, in these cases those flamingoes have made a terrible and terminal mistake. It is wonderful to see that people around the world no matter what their political beliefs, are coming together to help nature.
Russ, Northern British Columbia, Canada
09/11/2015 12:06
The photos of the bird in the person's home are very touching, captive here short term is a lot less ominous than long term captivity in a zoo...yes it needs to be kept safe but surely FREE! I feel as these birds are endangered their powerful survival mode is seeking new terrain and food...clearly they sense north is the answer and I trust their instinct!
Carmen, Ireland
06/11/2015 06:24

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