For those who have been following the recent story about the Everglades Snail Kites and how they are being impacted by water pumping from Lake Okeechobee, the National Audubon Society has posted a full report and started an online petition against the pumping.
The Snail Kite, which is impacted by water levels and the vitality of the apple snail, is an indicator of the health of our natural environment here in South Florida, and right now they are facing many threats, including SFWMD’s water-pumping from Lake Okeechobee. It’s important that our state’s leaders are aware of how our actions impact threatened species–before our endangered animals become a harbinger more than an indicator of a thriving ecosystem. We need to protect our fragile “indicator species” such as the Everglades Snail Kite.
Here is more from the Audubon, with some interesting links to more information.
“We were deeply saddened to learn that six of the remaining nine Everglade Snail Kite nests on Lake Okeechobee were found to have failed last week, apparently due to parental abandonment related to low water. The loss includes nine nestlings and four eggs. Of the three remaining nests, one has young that are starting to fly. The other two are not as old and due to the shallow water around them, have an ominous future.
To make matters worse, the Kites are not out of danger. If Lake Okeechobee levels decrease further, the availability of the Kite’s main food source - the apple snail – will decline dramatically. Apple snail populations were decimated and took several years to recover after the droughts in 2001 and 2007. If the lake declines to 10 feet this year, it is likely the apple snail populations will suffer a similar fate. Newly fledged young and adult Kites face starvation in the short term, and survivors may not be able to use the lake for years, until apple snail populations can recover.
Audubon has made our concerns known for months. This March, Audubon wrote a position paper on Kites and water levels in Lake Okeechobee and asked the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board to increase water conservation around Lake Okeechobee. Audubon renewed the request to protect the lake at the April SFWMD Governing Board meeting. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service also wrote a report to the SFWMD agreeing with Audubon’s assessment of imminent danger to Kite nests.
In May, the SFWMD finally moved to greater restrictions, but also decided to install temporary forward pumps in the lake to continue delivering water to farmers despite the even lower water levels. Audubon sent a letter to SFWMD Interim Executive Director Tommy Strowd last week opposing the temporary forward pump installation. Ironically, on the same day we sent this letter, researchers on Lake Okeechobee were discovering the Kite tragedy.”