Fooling flamingos

I have been helping out Auckland Zoo and the Department of Conservation with important conservation work, and last year Auckland Zoo had an unusual request.

 “Can you make flamingo eggs? Our flock of Greater flamingos have a tendency to kick their eggs into the water, so we give them a ‘dummy’ egg whilst we place their precious egg safely in an incubator.”

In the past I have only assisted with endemic or threatened species so I was a little hesitant, that was until I went on a short tour of the Zoo’s flamingo habitat and met the birds. I learnt that in the wild, flamingo habitat is indeed threatened, and I was captivated by these elegant, head-high birds. One of the young females named ‘Otis’ wandered over and gave me a friendly chest bump. Immediately smitten, I  have made 21 eggs for the flock. There were two technical challenges:

  1. The eggs have an unusually rough surface, I started off covering the smooth 3D printed models with epoxy but this quickly became laborious. Instead, I sculpted a texture on the 3D model and was impressed how well it printed.
  2. I had to get the weight just right. I achieved this by filling the eggs with sterilised sand, then water to make sure pressure changes from expanding and contracting air bubbles would not stress the resin shells.

One of the eggs has been successfully tested and I hope Otis & co will be happier spending more time sitting on eggs.