Crowd fund bid for flamingo crowd research
Flamingos are the focus of a new academic study exploring how relationships could improve their breeding success and welfare.
Scientists at the University of Exeter will analyse the social networks of flocks to find out how their actions affect welfare, reproductive success and behaviour patterns.
The four-year project in partnership with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Gloucestershire will apply knowledge on the animal social networks developed through research on Trinidadian guppies and dairy cattle.
It will be partially funded by members of the public for the first time in return for detailed information on the progress of the project.
Dr Darren Croft, from the Psychology department who is leading the first stage of the research, said it is aimed at gauging better understanding of the endangered species.
He said: "Flamingos are at risk in the wild from human encroachment, habitat loss and disturbance to breeding areas. The aim of this project is to benefit the management of flamingo flocks in captivity and to better understand flamingo behaviour, which may also help scientists observing wild birds. Three of the proposed study species have conservation relevance, which makes this work important."
The social dynamics of the wild birds, known for their mass groupings, are thought key to successful breeding.
Researchers think understanding these dynamics in captive flocks will provide benefits for behaviour, welfare and breeding.
Paul Rose, a PhD student at the university and project researcher, hopes the 'crowd funding' approach will attract a number of donations.
Mr Rose said: "By comparing enclosure usage and behaviour, we will be able to advise zoos on what to provide in order to enhance active, social behaviours. At the moment much of the UK population of captive birds is ageing and non-breeding; this research will go some way to help make captive flocks sustainable into the future and the use of specimens for ex situ conservation will be improved."
Flamingos with their highly sociable nature, pink colouring and large size are one of the most popular zoo birds in the world. There are 15,000 captive flamingos registered around the world and more than half of zoos keep them. But it is thought the figures only represent around half of their actual number.
Figures released by the university under the Freedom of Information Act showed it used a total of 6,606 animals last year for testing including 510 guppies.
To support the project, visit www.justgiving.com/Paul-Rose4