Disney to the rescue of lesser flamingo

Friday January 16 2009
mago sub 2 pix

The film records the fate of the 1.5 million flamingos who come to the remote soda lake to breed. Photo/FILE

A new film highlighting the plight of some of East Africa’s most endangered flamingos could help the international campaign to prevent a soda ash plant being created around Lake Natron in northern Tanzania.

Conservationists are hoping that the US film company Disney’s decision to highlight the plight of East Africa’s lesser flamingos in its first big-screen nature documentary in nearly half a century could help to save one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles.

Plans for the soda ash plant have already been criticised by international wildlife and bird organisations but the new film could invigorate the campaign in the same way as March of the Penguins did in the Antarctic

The Crimson Wing, released later this year, charts the perilous lives of the vast flocks of shimmering pink flamingos that breed on the isolated shores of Lake Natron in northern Tanzania.

“Environmentalists believe it will prove a powerful weapon in the fight to prevent a controversial soda ash mine being built at Lake Natron, which they claim will destroy the unique habitat vital to lesser flamingos throughout the region,” the Observer newspaper said.

“They also hope that the film will lead to a dramatic increase in tourists who will boost the economy and persuade the Tanzanian government to abandon the proposed development.”
The film records the fate of the 1.5 million flamingos who come to the remote soda lake to breed.


Birdlife International, who have been leading the campaign against the soda ash plant hope the production will lead to a surge in support for its ‘Think Pink’ campaign against the mine, and are urging filmgoers to write to the Tanzanian environment minister to register their protest.

Natron is a shallow lake at the foot of the Ol Doinyo Lengai (Mountain of God) volcano.

Its lava is rich in sodium carbonate and the high salt concentration creates an abundance of spirulina bacteria on which the flamingos feed. An estimated 1.5 million hatch on its mudflats each year, 75 per cent of the global population of the species.

The proposals for the soda ash plant were put forward by the Indian conglomerate Tata Chemicals three years ago. They plan to build a factory to produce 500,000 tonnes of soda ash a year.

The product is used in the pharmaceuticals industry for washing powder and glass making.