Dear Blog Readers,
Last Thursday I was between editing the Pope’s Easter Thursday Chrism Mass (where he blesses all the vats of oil to be used in Rome parishes for the year), covering an Amnesty International press conference on how they will be monitoring hate speech used on social media by politicians running in the European Elections (it seems it is increasing dramatically) and preparing for an interview with 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (who came to Rome this week), when I got an email from my friend Serena, the press officer at the Rome zoo.
Drop everything, breaking news! Four baby flamingos born at the zoo and more about to emerge! Now I should have smiled and moved on, but Serena knows how to get my attention. There were four photos attached of these adorable little creatures. Mozzarella Mamma was smitten, and, after all, it is Easter Week, eggs and pink fluffy things are on the agenda. So, I did drop everything and went with AP Television cameraman Gigi Navarra straight to the zoo (known as the Bioparco) to check them out.
They did not let us down. There were several fluffy grey baby flamingos with large, webbed feet huddling near their tall, pink, leggy parents. They were all born in the last two days and several large eggs were still perched on the top of cone-like dirt nests. Flamingos apparently lay only one egg at a time.
The anxious parents stood around the nests squawking at each other, tangling with their long pink necks and beaks, making a racket as they nervously protected their newborns and their eggs. (You remember those parental moments? Why is he crying? Why won’t he stop? He’s hungry!? He needs a diaper change!? He has to burp?! Why is he turning red? Do something!! Flap, flap, squawk, squawk)
The zookeeper, Yitzhak Yadid, told us that male and female flamingos have an unusually egalitarian relationship, over the thirty-day incubation period they spend equal time sitting on their nests and then share feeding responsibilities, inserting bits of regurgitated food into their baby’s beak.
Each baby flamingo weighs about 100 grams (4 ounces) and the
zookeepers still do not know their sex; they can only discover that with a DNA test.
The babies are still grey; they will turn pink as they get older after eating carotene that is in a small crustacean which is part of their diet.
I do try to be a serious journalist but sometimes it is much more fun to be the zoo correspondent!
Happy Easter from Rome!
Photo Credit: Massimiliano Di Giovanni