The important thing lifetime of flamingos: the conservation photographer capturing mesmerizing photos of Mexico’s iconic hen

Written by Rebecca Cairns, CNN

Since he was 4 years outdated, photographer Claudio Contreras Koob has been obsessive about flamingos: their vibrant pink feathers, horn-like curved beaks, and stylish, poised necks.

Born and raised in Mexico Metropolis, Koob visited the Yucatán Peninsula yearly all through school holidays. His father constructed a house on sand dunes throughout the port village of Chuburna, between the ocean and wetlands, and collectively they watched flamingo colonies accumulate throughout the lagoons and muddy swamps that stretched for miles behind the house.

“It was a very gorgeous sight after we had been able to identify a pink-orange mass of birds throughout the distance,” says Koob. “That stayed in my memory.”

The Caribbean flamingo is “emblematic” of the Yucatán Peninsula, the place his father is from, says Koob, displaying on seashore towels, pool inflatables, yard furnishings, and even on packaging for pink salt. Nonetheless no matter its fame, in Yucatán and previous, little is considered its actions and biology, he says.
The Caribbean flamingo lives in salty wetland and coastal waters around Mexico, the US and the Caribbean.

The Caribbean flamingo lives in salty wetland and coastal waters spherical Mexico, the US and the Caribbean. Credit score: Claudio Contreras Koob / Nature Picture Library

Now, a very long time after his first sightings of this “iconic hen,” Koob is sharing his passion in a model new photos e-book, “Flamingo,” revealed remaining month.

Koob hopes his intimate portraits of the hen will help others to “fall in love with flamingos” and encourage them to care in regards to the wetlands the place they dwell.

From lab to lens

Koob’s childhood fascination with nature led him to assessment wildlife biology on the Nationwide Autonomous School of Mexico, the place he took a course in microphotography and located “what the language of photos would possibly do,” he says.

Combining his passions, Koob focused on conservation photos when he left school. He joined the Worldwide League of Conservation Photographers which in 2009, requested him to grab the tagging of flamingo chicks in Yucatán.

With the help of Mexico’s Flamingo Conservation Program, run by Fundación Pedro y Elena Hernández since 2015, Koob spent quite a lot of years amassing the pictures that make up his e-book. He says the most important drawback was getting close to breeding birds.

“When you occur to disturb one, they start screaming and flying away, and you will set off a panic. They may go away the entire eggs, and abandon the colony,” says Koob.

Koob spent years gaining the trust of the flamingos so that he could photograph their nesting colonies and young chicks.

Koob spent years gaining the idea of the flamingos so that he would possibly {{photograph}} their nesting colonies and youthful chicks. Credit score: Claudio Contreras Koob / Nature Picture Library

Koob says his “sluggish technique” to pictures enabled him to assemble intimate photos of the flamingos. He usually wore camouflage, army crawling all through muddy flooring to get close to the birds with out scaring them.

On some occasions, he took a ship into the lagoons sooner than dawn so the birds could be accustomed to his presence by daybreak, and stayed until after nightfall. “That is sturdy, with the photo voltaic and 40 ranges (heat),” says Koob. “It is extremely consuming for the physique.”

Pretty in pink

In distinction to individuals, flamingos are properly tailor-made for his or her extreme environment.

Gathering in groups typically generally known as a flamboyance, flamingos generally dwell in brackish water, nonetheless some inhabit alkaline “soda lakes” stuffed with water so extreme in sodium carbonate it’ll irritate or burn the pores and pores and skin of most animals.
Flamingos use their hooked beaks to feed on shrimp, mollusks and algae that are rich in carotenoids, the pigment that gives them their pink coloring.

Flamingos use their hooked beaks to feed on shrimp, mollusks and algae that are rich in carotenoids, the pigment that provides them their pink coloring. Credit score: Claudio Contreras Koob / Nature Picture Library

Proper right here, the flamingos encounter few predators or completely different birds which may compete for meals. Flamingos should eat 10% of their physique weight every day, says Koob — so having prolonged, undisturbed feeding events is important.

Their weight-reduction plan contains algae, shrimps and mollusks containing huge portions of carotenoids — the similar pigments that give fruit and veggies like carrots, pumpkins, and tomatoes their coloring — and which might be accountable for the flamingo’s signature hot-pink look, says Koob.

Wetlands beneath danger

Flamingo conservation has been a extreme priority for Mexico given that Seventies and ’80s, when it established two federal wetland reserves on the Yucatán peninsula, later designated as UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

Ría Lagartos to the east is the place the flamingos nest and breed, whereas on Yucatán’s western border, Ría Celestún is an important feeding website. Additional reserves established by the native Yucatán authorities indicate that almost all the peninsula’s wetlands are protected, says Koob.
Flamingo numbers have been rising given that establishment of the parks, say Koob. Based totally on the number of nests on the breeding colony in Ría Lagartos, the Nationwide Charge of Pure Protected Areas (CONANP) estimates there have been spherical 30,000 grownup birds in 2021.
Nonetheless these reserves don’t provide full security, he says. Agrochemicals utilized in highland areas stream by underwater river methods and pollute the wetlands, and whereas the reserves are presupposed to be shielded from metropolis enchancment, Koob says there are nonetheless conditions of illegal setting up and trash disposal.
Up to 50,000 tourists come to see the flamingos every year at Ría Celestún (pictured) -- although Koob warns that this could disrupt their eating habits.

As a lot as 50,000 vacationers come to see the flamingos yearly at Ría Celestún (pictured) — although Koob warns that this would possibly disrupt their consuming habits. Credit score: Claudio Contreras Koob / Nature Picture Library

Native climate change and rising sea ranges threaten flamingo habitat, and tourism moreover has an affect. Whereas the nesting colony is closed to vacationers, as a lot as 50,000 visitors come to see the flamingos in Celestn yearly which could disrupt their consuming habits. Authorities have launched legal guidelines to limit the numbers of vacationers, says Koob, together with that it’s too early to know if the caps shall be sufficient.

Now, Koob is once more in Yucatán, staying in his childhood trip dwelling in Chuburná, photographing the wetlands. This time, horseshoe crabs are his focus, and he hopes he can proceed to draw additional consideration to the wildlife and communities dwelling there.

“For most people, the wetlands is type of a smelly, darkish, creepy place. Nonetheless it is stuffed with wonders — and the flamingo is just one of them,” says Koob.

Similar Posts