Knee-deep in shit, and lovin’ it

They may seem like graceful, majestic birds, but flamingos are in reality disgusting creatures who like to wade around in sewage. In fact they thrive on it, says Leicester University biologist David Harper.

Harper has been studying flamingos for the past nine years. Much of his research has been done in and around the lakes of Tanzania, but what he saw in India came as a bit of a shock.

On the coast near Mumbai, Harper watched 20,000 lesser flamingos happily feeding on tidal mud flats by an oil refinery, a petrochemical plant and creeks bringing untreated sewage from millions of people in the slums of the city:

“In Porbandar, the city which is the birthplace of Mahatma Ghandi, in Gujarat to the north of Bombay, I watched 8,000 standing knee deep and happily filtering-feeding in the water alongside rubbish, cowpats and wastewater running in from surrounding houses and factories.”

Harper advises those who blame human industries for the poisoning of flamingos in East Africa to go and visit India:

“[They] should go to India to see how well lesser flamingos thrive and how pink they grow, when they are surrounded by heavy industry and by water so polluted I could smell it a mile away!”