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Lake Nakuru National Park faces a looming existential crisis

By Caroline Chebet | May 31st 2020
Zebras wading through floods caused by the rising waters at Lake Nakuru. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Hundreds of animals have been displaced at Lake Nakuru National Park as the lakes waters continue to rise.

The lake’s water has invaded the park, flooding hundreds of acres that provided food and home to wildlife, and squeezing the animals into rapidly decreasing space.

Rising steadily

Environment experts say the lake’s water levels have been rising steadily since 2013. This is also the time when the area’s main tourist attraction - flamingos and pelicans, started fleeing.

Rising waters have also displaced the park’s rangers after their quarters were flooded, forcing them to higher grounds.

According to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), animals in the park are now competing for the little space left, a situation made direr because they cannot be moved to another park following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Affected wildlife

The park is a sanctuary for a variety of wildlife, including Rothschild giraffes, buffaloes and black rhinos.

In a Zoom meeting of Tourism ministry officials and other stakeholders, KWS Director General John Waweru said the lake’s flooding had seen a sharp rise in human-wildlife conflicts.

Plans to relocate some buffaloes from the park to reduce their rapidly increasing numbers, currently eight times the sanctuary’s capacity, have been shelved.

“Translocation of animals has been suspended as a result of the pandemic and cases of human - wildlife conflicts are increasing,” said Waweru.

By last year, the park was home to 4,100 buffaloes. 

The congestion has seen several outbreaks of anthrax within the swollen animal population that has led to massive number of deaths.

According to Waweru, the park lost 145 buffaloes (3.5 per cent of the animal’s total population) to an anthrax outbreak last year.

The flooding has caused huge losses for the county and national government considering that the park used to generate Sh500 million yearly, making it one of the top revenue earners in the country’s 23 national parks.

The raging Covid-19 pandemic and the flooding have kept tourists away from the park.

According to Waweru, KWS has scaled-down operations at the park by 70 per cent.

However, KWS research scientist Joseph Edebe said despite the lake’s flooding, there was enough grazing space for herbivores.

“The park is 188 square kilometres and there is more grass with the rains. The herbivores are just moving away from flooded areas,” he said.

Ray of hope

According to the researcher, managing wildlife in the park is easier with the prevailing good weather.

“The buffalo population is past the carrying capacity but currently, everything is in abundance. There were times when we had to sink boreholes to get water,” he said.


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