National Geographic : 1961 Jul
joined us in a race through thin ice toward the ensnared birds. Soon we cradled in our arms the first two James's flamingos ever captured alive (page 102). We gasped at their delicate coloring. One bird was large and heavy, probably a male; the other, much smaller, appeared to be a female-an auspicious start. They had a grace and daintiness not found in the other five species. Captives Show Little Fear We clothed our prizes in sugar sacks, head and neck protruding, to keep the birds from injuring themselves. Remarkably tame, they walked boldly about me as soon as they were released in an enclosure that we had built. Next day we snared three more jamesi; succeeding days brought more, and eventu ally an Andean flamingo as well. After the rigors of Laguna Colorada, the return to New York seemed uneventful. But I remember being unable to suppress a laugh at a question put to me in Antofagasta. With our flamingos loaded on a plane, the craft's worried copilot said: "This plane stops HS EKTACHROME(ABOVE) AND KODACHROME© NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY at La Paz, Bolivia, and the cabin pressure drops. Can your birds stand the 12,000-foot altitude there?" The flamingos adjusted quickly to life in the New York Zoological Park (above), stroll ing so near the fences that we had to discour age children from trying to pet them. Feeding remained a worry, however; we wondered if the rarest flamingos would live on a man-made ration. Happily, they are now thriving on a concoction of chicken feed, alfalfa-leaf meal, and baby cereal. But zoo meals cause many red birds to fade. In recent years we have discovered a substance that remedies the pigmentation lack in flamingos: carrot oil. Now we give them daily dosages and they retain their beautiful hues. Why, we still don't know. A more vital question is: Will these birds breed in captivity? Few of the world's zoos have ever bred flamingos, and ours is not one of them. We wait anxiously for the signs of courtship, but the vigil could last years. Still, if their life span compares with that of other species - more than 40 years in some cases they need not hurry.