Smoking volcanos tower on the horizon as you stand on the vast salar. Shallow pools of water teem with brine shrimp. Flamingos flock to these lagoons to feast on them. As you watch you quickly become parched courtesy of the thin, dry and windy air.
You are standing on the vast salt flats (salar in Spanish) of Salar de Atacama, the largest salar in Chile. In this desolation life carves out a precarious niche that is being threatened by global warming. As the earth heats, the rivers send less water to the vast salt flats where rain doesn’t fall and evaporation takes its toll.
As the habitat shrinks, so does the population of these large and beautiful birds. Nearby mines disturb and pollute the environment with chemicals that are highly toxic to flamingos. As roads are improved tourism and poachers take an additional toll.
Conservationists are trying to protect these birds. The Andean Flamingo was declared an endangered species in 2010. Many of the places flamingos reside in the summer and winter have been made national parks. However many of their breeding grounds remain unprotected.
Enjoy the photos of these Andean Flamingos and please tread lightly when you are a guest in their habitat.