The pink miracle at Priolo Gargallo

The pink miracle at Priolo Gargallo


A coloured ring and then Bon voyage. Another 104 pink flamingos have hatched at the Saline di Priolo Gargallo Nature Reserve, run by Lipu, the Italian Bird Protection League. The reserve is located to the north of the Sicilian city of Syracuse, from where the birds are due to take flight in a few weeks’ time. A naturalistic wonder made possible by the Enel Archimede power plant that, by maintaining the water levels in the Sicilian salt marshes, has enabled these large migratory birds to nest and reproduce, a very rare phenomenon in Italy and in habitats occupied by humans.

On 26 July, for the fourth consecutive year, the reserve hosted a ritual that is both a kind of baptism and a farewell. About one hundred volunteers and experts from ISPRA, the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, ringed the legs of the flamingo chicks with a colour and alphanumeric code. The rings will make it possible to learn about the birds’ movements throughout the wetlands of the Mediterranean, trace back their story, and recognise them when they return home next year.


Enel’s key role 

The Priolo Gargallo Nature Reserve was established in 2000 and for some years now it has been considered one of the most beautiful oases in Italy. The arrival of the pink flamingos is a testament to the environmental remediation that has taken place and the area’s healthy biological and marine balance. The Archimede combined cycle power plant plays an important role in pumping seawater into the basin, thus guaranteeing a constant water level, which is essential for creating a welcoming habitat. Indeed, the flamingo is a demanding animal: it needs a great deal of food as well as optimal levels of water, which has to be very clean. In the summer of 2013, the birds were at risk of dying as the marsh became too dry. Thanks to Enel’s intervention, they were saved and since then they have continued to return and nest, providing a genuine spectacle for ornithologists and birdwatchers. They lay their eggs in April, with the parents taking turns incubating them for a period of about 28 days. The chicks stay with their parents for 80 days and then start flying.


Not only flamingos 

At the saltmarshes, which were mentioned by poets of the likes of Virgil and Ovid as well as the historian Thucydides, 216 species of birds have been recorded, about 40% of all those observed today in Italy. Among these is the quite uncommon Caspian tern, the first and only greater sand plover, the only pin-tailed snipe in Europe, and many more.

Furthermore, as shown in a video screened on 25 July at the international conference “The conservation of wetlands in the Mediterranean - A bridge between Europe and Africa,” the fauna of the area has recently been enriched by two other species, never before recorded in the reserve: the marten and the porcupine. The conference, sponsored by Enel, involved the mayor of Priolo Gargallo, Pippo Gianni, and was attended by speakers from many European countries who appreciate the importance of the conservation of coastal wetlands. Enel was represented by Emanuele Silvestri, from the Sicily Institutional Relations Department, and the director of Enel Archimede power plant, Michele Vinci, who underlined Enel’s commitment to continue the “fruitful collaboration” with Lipu and, in particular, with the Saline di Priolo Nature Reserve. 


“My colleagues and I are very happy that maintaining water levels in the marsh, which we have been ensuring for some years now during the summer, contributes to the birth of the small pink flamingos and the protection of this beautiful species”

– Michele Vinci, director of the Enel Archimede power plant

Our Group in Italy is not new to initiatives to safeguard bird biodiversity. Projects similar to the one in Priolo Gargallo have been implemented in Tuscany and Lombrady for storks, while in Emilia we have helped construct nests for hawks. The arrival and reproduction of the pink flamingos, however, is perhaps the rarest and most thrilling visual spectacle, and one that is repeated year after year.