The populations of the two species of Andean FlamingosPhoenicopterus andinus and P. jamesi are included in Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). An MOU aimed at improving the conservation status of these species and their habitats came into effect on 4 December 2008 during COP9. The MOU covers four Range States: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. Argentina is the only range state that has not signed the MOU. However, the government has been participating actively in the regional projects aimed at the conservation of these species.
The High Andean Flamingos undertake continuous migrations between the South American wetlands of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru to forage and to search for breeding sites. The populations of these flamingos have been subject to a drastic reduction and fragmentation of their habitats. According to the IUCN, the global conservation status of the Andean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus andinus) is “Vulnerable” and that of James’s Flamingo (Phoenicopterus jamesi) is “Nearly Threatened”.
The flamingos’ habitat is found in the Central Dry Puna of the Andes, an eco-region absolutely unique in the world. Its altitude ranges between 2,300 and 4,800 metres above sea level (with the exception of Laguna Mar Chiquita in Argentina at only 66 metres above sea level). It is populated by biota well adapted to high elevations and climatic extremes. The High Andean wetlands are mostly saline in nature. They are home to several endemic and migratory, as well as nomadic, bird species and other wildlife dependent on these wetlands. The Andean Puna is dry and cold and has a limited capacity to support agriculture and classical cattle ranching, and therefore it can only sustain relatively low numbers of people.
High Andean Flamingos have experienced direct threats from egg collection for market consumption, a practice that was more common during the mid-twentieth century up until the early 1980s. Indirect threats coming from human disturbances, particularly unregulated mining activities have resulted in the erosion of nest-sites, water contamination, and a reduction in water availability. In addition to these threats, climate change has been associated with the increasing retreat of mountain glaciers in the Andes. This unprecedented retreat would probably affect water supply at Andean wetlands in the near future.
The proposed Action Plan seeks to protect the High Andean Flamingos and their habitats, fostering research activities towards the improvement of the knowledge of these species, habitat management, and would also promote the cooperation and information exchange among signatories. In addition, the Plan would also serve as a consolidation instrument of the conservation endeavors that are already in place to promote High Andean wetlands conservation, such as those executed by the Grupo de Conservación de Flamingos Altoandinos (GCFA), and the commitments agreed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
In addition to developing an Action Plan, signatories are committed to assess its implementation at regular meetings, and report any advancement on the conservation of these species to the Secretariat. Overall, activities under the MOU are oriented towards the effective protection of the High Andean Flamingos through the conservation of the habitats upon which they depend throughout their entire life-cycle.
CMS has been contributing significantly to the regional capacity development through the CMS Small Grants Programme (SGP). In 2011, CMS and Centro de Estudios en Biología Teórica y Aplicada (BIOTA – Center for Studies in Theoretical and Applied Biology) in Bolivia agreed to cooperate on a large project to monitor these species. The results of this project contributed to the evaluation of the breeding success of High Andean Flamingos in Bolivia and Argentina during 2011-2012. It also assisted in the identification of the principal threats for their conservation in these countries.