Walt Disney have chosen Lake Natron’s Lesser Flamingos Phoeniconaias minor to star in their first wildlife blockbuster in nearly half a century. ‘The Crimson Wing - Mystery of the Flamingos’ takes viewers to the isolated shores of Lake Natron, in northern Tanzania, for a birds-eye view of the mysterious and perilous lives of Lesser Flamingos. The film was premiered in Paris this week, and reminds the world of the threats facing one the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles.
Walt Disney produced wildlife documentaries called the ‘True-Life Adventure’ series between 1948 and 1960. These Oscar-winning films showed people the beauty of the natural world. The Crimson Wing marks the return of Disney to the genre. “We hope these films will contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of the beauty and fragility of our natural world”, said Robert A. Iger, president and CEO, The Walt Disney Company.
Disney chose Lake Natron’s Lesser Flamingo population to relaunch their new company - Disneynature. For film maker Matthew Aeberhard, the extraordinary gathering of one and a half million flamingos on the shores of Lake Natron surpasses all the wonders of the natural world. “What’s fascinating to me is that so few people have been here”, said Aeberhard. “More people have walked on the moon than have been out on the mudflats where the flamingos have their breeding colonies”.
Lake Natron is one of the largest soda lakes in the Rift Valley, its eight saline lagoons covering an area of approximately 80 km2. It’s extremely alkaline; providing ideal environment for the salt-loving micro organisms which support East Africa’s largest population of Lesser Flamingos.
The Crimson Wing tells the story of the birth, life and death of a million Lesser Flamingos. Life at Natron is tough for the flamingos, with many predators threatening their daily survival. According to Aeberhard: “they have a number of predators such as Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus, hyenas and jackals... The contrast here between life and death is very stark”.