(Originally published January 2014)
It wasn’t too long ago that there was a fear Lake Nakuru may be drying up. A severe drought during 2009-2010 led to a disappearing lake and the majority of the lake’s flamingo population relocating elsewhere.
Instead, just a few years later, Lake Nakuru is facing a very different problem: its water-levels are rapidly rising. Persistent, abnormal rains have swollen the lake far beyond its usual size; a reported growth from 42km2 to 68km2, alongside an increase of 6m in water level. Already, a number of Kenya Wildlife Service buildings around its edges have become half-submerged, and the acacia tree-line marooned off-shore illustrates how far the waters have risen in recent years. An increase in water level has affected the salinity of the lake; the reduction in salinity reducing the growth of the algae that provides a food source for lesser and greater flamingo. This forces the flamingo to seek food elsewhere, in other lakes around East Africa.
While there remains an incredible amount of biodiversity in Lake Nakuru National Park – around 450 species of bird as well as Kenya’s wealth of charismatic mammals – flamingo are an iconic bird, and their long-term disappearance to other lakes could impact on the area’s ecosystem and ecotourism, affecting both wildlife and human populations. The various inhabitants of Lake Nakuru National Park, both human and otherwise, will be keeping a close eye on the water.