Roy Lumbe @lumbe_roy
The return of flamingoes to Lake Nakuru National Park has rekindled hopes among investors and entrepreneurs in Nakuru county hospitality sector.
The world-famous bird sanctuary is a popular destination for more than 5,000 avid bird watchers from Europe, America and Pacific Asia. Lake Nakuru was home to around three million flamingoes in the 1990s but the number has drastically declined as the lake now battles rising water levels and poor solid waste management in the county.
The park’s deputy warden, Aaron Sang, said high flow of water from rivers feeding the lake, which started almost a decade ago, had altered the ecological balance of the ecosystem that flamingoes thrive on.
Higher levels of precipitation, he says, decrease alkalinity which means less algae for the birds. As a result, large number of flamingoes migrate to neighbouring soda lakes such as Lake Bogoria in Baringo county and Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania.
“In the past 12 years, there was a rise of water levels in the lake which decreased alkalinity of the ecosystem,” he said. However, Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) has said the flamingo population is steadily rising.
Stakeholders in the hospitality industry have said return of the flamingoes is a much-awaited boost to their businesses. Lake Nakuru Lodge marketing and sales director Joseph Muya says bed occupancy at the facility had dropped by more than 25 per cent as both local and international tourists shunned the park because of the flamingoes’ absence.
“Business was at a low since the flamingoes migrated,” he said. KWS has raised the red flag over discharge of untreated effluent into Lake Nakuru National Park, which is threatening its eco-system.
It also estimates that 540 kilogrammes of solid waste is collected at the park every day and increases during heavy rains. The pink flamingo ribbon around the lake shore attracts more than 35,000 people monthly to Lake Nakuru.
Sang urges international and domestic tourists to visit the facility, saying KWS has renewed its commitment to work with all stakeholders to protect the fragile lake’s ecosystem.