DENVER (CBS4)– Denver Zoo employees helped with an effort to return more than 500 South African flamingos to the wild. Their parents left them to save themselves during a devastating drought.
“Hearing that I could use my skills to help out South African flamingos was like something I never would have imagined,” said Anton Morrison, flamingo keeper at the Denver Zoo. “I knew immediately when I saw the situation was happening that I needed to go help them.”
Morrison currently works with dozens of American and Chilean Flamingos at the Denver Zoo.
Earlier this year, he was one of three employees who spent two weeks in South Africa. It was all part of a worldwide effort to save nearly 2,000 Lesser Flamingo chicks abandoned by their parents because of severe drought conditions.
CBS4’s Karen Morffit reported in April on the effort by Denver Zoo employees.
“In the beginning staff had to do very intense care,” Morrison said. “By the time I got there, the chicks were a lot older, but all of the chicks I took care of had special medical needs.”
Many chicks needed to be hand-fed. Some required even more intensive care.
“It definitely was still a lot of work,” he said. “Even after I left at that vet clinic, birds had just had surgery and were recovering.”
This week, CBS This Morning was there as dozens of those flamingos were released to the wild. So far, just under half of the baby birds that were rescued have made it.
Morrison said he and the other two employees try their best to stay in touch with some of the people they met while down in South Africa.
“We’ve been able to hear a lot about what’s happening and we’ve been able to hear about the birds that haven’t been released either and how their conditions are doing as well,” he said. “It’s awesome that so many organizations from zoos, to rehab centers to conservation-specific organizations were able to come together and work together to save these animals and get them back into the wild.”
Morrison said he’ll forever cherish the once in a lifetime opportunity.
“We’ll definitely be able to look back on this experience and use it for future conservation work and for taking care of animals in our care as well.”