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Birds leave Lake Nakuru as ‘toxicity’ levels rise

By | Jan 20th 2011 | 3 min read


Nakuru County

Thousands of flamingoes have migrated to Lake Oloidien in Naivasha due to what bird experts term as high toxicity levels in their natural home at Lake Nakuru.

Kenya Wildlife Service scientist in charge of Ecological Monitoring Mr Joseph Edebe said the migration might have been triggered by dilution of the lake.

He said fresh water flowing into Lake Nakuru might have diluted the salinity of the water, thereby reducing production of algae that is food for the birds. He said during a census of water birds carried early this month, they noted the number of fresh water birds such as pelicans had increased.

Some of the 1.5 million flamingoes fly around Lake Oloidien, a volcanic lake which was once part of Lake Naivasha. The birds have migrated to the small lake in thousands due to the high level of algae and are attracting tourists to the little known lake. [PHOTO: ANTONY GITONGA/STANDARD]

According to estimates from the experts, the number of the birds in the small lake that borders Lake Naivasha stands at 1.5 million.

This came as water levels in the lake rose with, hopes that this could act as a tourist attraction site.

Mr David Kilo, an eco-tourism operator and a bird expert, said the birds had moved to the lake due to the high level of algae.

He said algae that turned the colour of the lake’s water to green, gives flamingoes ample food.

He said that the birds were no longer using the lake as a resting place on their way to Lake Natron as has been the norm in the past migrations.

"In the past flamingo flying from Lake Nakuru to Lake Natron briefly stopped here but they have now moved here permanently," he said.

Kilo said that the high toxic levels at Crater Lake and Lake Nakuru had seen the birds opt for the small lake. Another operator Simon Kiarie attributed the rise in water levels in the lake to the conservation of Mau Forest, which acts, as the catchment are to the lake.

He termed the shifting of the birds from Nakuru to Naivasha as a blessing as it came soon after KWS raised its park entry fees.

"Tourists can easily access this part of the lake as there is no fee charge unlike other areas like Lake Nakuru," he said.


The operators however expressed their concern that white settlers around the lake had fenced off part of the lake making it impossible for locals to access it. "We call on the Government to intervene as all the riparian land has been fenced off by investors," Kiarie appeal.

The lake’s abundance of algae attracts the vast quantity of flamingoes that famously line the shore. Other attractions in the lake include warthogs, baboons and other large mammals.

The park has recently been enlarged partly to provide the sanctuary for the black rhino. This undertaking has necessitated a fence — to keep out poachers rather than to restrict the movement of wildlife.

The park marches for 12 km on the southeastern boundary with the Soysambu conservancy.

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