Flamingo expert Alan Johnson passes on

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Wetlands International is deeply saddened by the loss of Alan Johnson, one of our Associate Experts. Alan passed away on 25 December 2014, at the age of 73.

Born in the UK, Alan moved to the Camargue on the Mediterranean coast of France in the early 1960s, and as a field ornithologist at the Tour du Valat biological station was given the task of trying to save the area’s dwindling population of Greater Flamingo. This became his lifetime passion. He remained a member of the Tour du Valat research team until his retirement in 2001 and has continued working on the conservation of these species until his untimely death.

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Alan Johnson ringing Greater flamingos at the Fangassier in the Camargue in 2013

Alan served as chair of our Flamingo Specialist Group (jointly coordinated with IUCN SSC) between 1978 and 2004. During this time, the group actively organised a number of activities, international meetings and ran a popular newsletter.

In recognition of his expertise in flamingos and more general conservation of waterbirds and wetlands, Alan served as an Associate Expert of Wetlands International.

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Receiving a special award for his lifetime contribution to flamingo conservation in 2014

Alan was involved in the successful creation of an island for flamingos to breed on in the Camargue and attracted the birds to the site with artificial nest-mounds, which have been used by the birds for the last few decades. He initiated and organised each year from 1977 to 2001 the capture and ringing of 500-900 flamingo chicks, involving the participation of 120-200 persons, work that still continues. Through his efforts to strengthen international cooperation with people across the Mediterranean and West Africa, many new insights on the movements and breeding of these marked birds have become known. Alan also advised on flamingo conservation work for many of the threatened species in South America, Africa and Asia. Alan authored a number of books and scientific papers on the conservation of flamingos, including the very popular book The Greater Flamingo that he coauthored with Frank Cezilly.

Alan will be missed by flamingo specialists and enthusiasts around the world who have greatly benefitted from their interactions and knowledge gained.

Website of the Flamingo Specialist Group