7th April 2009
Taronga's last Chilean Flamingo passed away on April 3.
The grand old Flamingo, which was affectionately referred to as 'Yellow Band' after the colour of its ID band, had been experiencing various age-related problems in recent years and had become exceptionally frail. Veterinarians and keepers agreed that the bird humanely euthanased.
As the bird entered its twilight years, the Zoo's dedicated bird keepers made her as comfortable as possible including constructing a specially built retirement aviary complete with a non-slip ramp and wading pool.
Despite receiving continual treatment from the Taronga's veterinary team and keepers to ease the aches and pains, the heartbreaking decision was made to end its suffering after the bird developed foot problems which caused her pain when standing on her graceful old limbs.
Yellow Band was especially loved by the keepers as she had lived at the Zoo since before many of them were even born! She arrived at Taronga in August 1948 with a flock of about 20 other birds. Over the years the flock has slowly dwindled, but she had stood the test of time and had certainly seen many changes in the Zoo over those 60 years.
Most of the Flamingos in the original flock were mature when they arrived at the Zoo, so she would easily have been one of the oldest animals at Taronga, however throughout the past couple of years her frailty had become evident and like most senior citizens she has developed particular habits.
She disliked change and was definitely set in her ways. If she ever had to visit our veterinarians for some extra TLC she often refused to eat until she was back in her own water exhibit. Her vibrant pink colour had also started to fade as she preferred to snack on fly pupae rather than shrimp or a special pink additive pellet which enhanced her colour and provided nutrients.
Her grandmotherly instinct certainly took over in her latter years and she often played carer to Wandering Whistling Ducks and their ducklings when they shared her exhibit as the youngsters were being reared.
Since 1948 much has been learnt about Flamingos. Once thought to breed and live in small flocks, research has shown they very social, preferring to live in flocks of thousands. In the 1980s mirrors were placed behind Taronga's Flamingo exhibit to give the impression of a larger flock and therefore to encourage breeding. Although it didn't assist in producing young the optical illusion of a much larger flock size of these stunning pink birds remains a strong memory for many Sydneysiders and visitors.
It is likely that Yellow Band will be the last Chilean Flamingo at Taronga Zoo due to strengthened quarantine protocols which strictly control bird imports to protect against the spread of avian diseases. Yellow Band was one of only two Chilean Flamingos in Australasia, with the other at Adelaide Zoo.
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