Flamingos under massive threat over changing rift valley’s alkaline lakes

Flamingos under massive threat as a result of changing water alkalinity in the rift valley lakes due to high rains.

The increasing water levels in the lakes has altered the habitat ecosystem of flamingos, forcing a large flock to shift to lagoons.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) senior researcher, Joseph Edebe, said that the salinity of water in the lake has reduced due to the increasing water levels. This has led to water in the lake becoming fresh, forcing flamingos to find abode in sewerage lagoons.

“Flamingos follow food and wherever they are, it is an indicator that there is food. Flamingos thrive on brackish or saline water and that is why they prefer lagoons, which exhibit the same features,” he said.

Increasing water levels in the rift valley lakes submerging the surrounding environment

According to scientists, the rising water levels have resulted in changes in water salinity affecting the availability of food in Lake Bogoria. The flamingos have been observed to appear weak at present due to starvation.

The flamingos have found abode in the lagoons where liquid waste from industries is being treated. Hundreds of flamingos have moved to the sprawling lagoons managed by Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services.

This phenomenon according to the residents is rare and has been witnessed recently.

“We started seeing the flamingos in the sewage ponds some months ago and they seem to be increasing in numbers. There have also been deaths recorded and we are wondering what might be the cause,” said a resident.

Death of flamingos

Flamingos under massive threat lately in the rift valley lakes.

In the latest census of water birds done in January, there were 6,000 flamingos in Nakuru, of which 4,000 translating to two-thirds resided in sewerage lagoons. Only a third of the population resides in Lake Nakuru.

There have been death reports of flamingos within the lagoons. The researcher said the cases were being investigated, with samples having been taken for laboratory tests. The effluent to sewage lagoons where the flamingos are thriving is suspected to have deposits of heavy metals. 

“Water quality monitoring within the lagoons is also being undertaken,” said Joseph Edebe. 

Death numbers

The latest waterbird counts in Lake Bogoria conducted by KWS, National Museums of Kenya, and Nature Kenya had 300,000 flamingos by January 2021.

However, KWS reports that 1,000 deaths have been recorded.

Flamingos under increasing threat invasive Prosopis juliflora “Mathenge”

“In Lake Bogoria, preliminary results obtained from carcasses of flamingos indicate they are not getting enough food. This is due to a change in water chemistry. Results indicated that the flamingos were weak,” Edebe said.

Lake Bogoria just as Lake Nakuru, has declined in salinity, with the pH levels have declined from 10 to between 8 and 9, which is less salty. The increasing water levels in both Lake Nakuru and Baringo has pushed flamingos to the edges, where invasive Prosopis juliflora “Mathenge” further interfering with the ecosystem.

Although poor waste management has been linked to a decline in flamingo population in Lake Nakuru, County Chief Officer for Environment Muriithi Kiogora has called for a multi-sectoral approach to tame the crisis.

“It is true Lake Nakuru is experiencing challenges, starting from the catchment areas. The flamingos that have died within the lagoons might mean that they fed on toxic algae blooms. However, investigations to get to the root cause are ongoing,” Kiogora said.

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