Author: Caroline Kibii
Guide: Patrick Kurere
Date of Visit: 25th August 2020
Lake Bogoria, formerly known as Lake Hannington, is a closed-basin saline lake formed through tectonic and volcanic activities. It is located south of Lake Baringo and the northern part of the Equator. The lake was Gazetted in the early 1970s and is a World Ramsar Site (No. 1057). Baringo County Government manages the reserve.
Lake Bogoria is a long and narrow lake that was initially 34km; however, the rising water levels have almost doubled the lake’s size. The entire Lake Bogoria National Reserve is estimated to be 107Km square.
It hosts almost 200 hot springs, most of which have been covered by the rising water levels.
It is home to over 375 bird species, considered an important bird area in Kenya, 50 migratory birds, and several animal and plant species.
Water Level rising
The water levels in Lake Bogoria started rising in 2012/13. Since then, the administrative offices have been permanently displaced two times in the last seven years. Nonetheless, the levels reduce occasionally. During this period (August 2020) the water has covered most hot springs, forced flamingos to move to the road and swallowed the old roads.
Flamingos are a striking feature within Lake Bogoria. Their beautiful pink colour adds appeal to the lake. The lesser flamingos dominate because of the alkaline-salinity of the water. The lesser flamingos are considered the smallest in the flamingo family, although they are larger than regular birds.
The pink colouration comes from the beta carotene found in algae, larvae, and brine shrimp the flamingos feed on.
Note: Lake Bogoria is a feeding ground for the flamingos, while Lake Natron in Tanzania is the breeding ground.
During their migratory period, flamingos fly at night because it is cooler, and the predators are asleep. They can cover a distance of over 500Km at a go going at 60km/h.
Challenges faced by flamingos
Flamingos have a life span of 45-50 years. However, they can die because of natural causes such as diseases.
In Lake Bogoria, flamingos are preyed on by baboons and are at risk of burns from the hot springs.
Other animals likely to sight in the National park
Greater Kudu– this shy antelope may be sighted during cool hours of the day, mainly in the early mornings and late afternoon. The reasons the greater Kudus are sparsely populated despite occupying a wider territory are declining habitats, deforestation, and poaching.
Kirk’s dik-dik: The smallest antelope is mostly common in Lake Bogoria National Reserve. The best time to sight them along the road is in the evening when the temperatures are cool, and the human presence is minimal. They are shy. They have adopted the colour of the surrounding hence might be difficult to notice from far.
Vervet Monkeys: Found in large numbers, easily spotted during cool hours of the day.
Zebras: Not easy to spot along the road. They hid inside the shrubs.
Leopard tortoise: Often spotted crossing the road. No guaranteed specific location to find them.
Thomson Gazelles: They have not been spotted in a long while. Hunting, poaching, and habitat destruction are considered the leading causes of their disappearance.
Elephants: rarely spotted in the reserve
Baboons: can be seen along the road; however, it will depend on the time of the day.
Migratory corridor: Lake Bogoria National Reserve is a migratory corridor for elephants and birds. For many years, elephants migrating to and from Laikipia pass through the reserve.
Hot springs and geysers
With over 200 hot springs, Lake Bogoria has gained fame for its natural spa that offers tourists an opportunity to boil eggs within 8minutes at 103 degrees Celsius.
For many years, geysers and hot springs within the lake and the shores could be sighted and accessed. Unfortunately, because of the rising lake levels the hot springs have been fading away so fast leaving few spots by the shore.
Despite the conservation efforts by the county government of Baringo and the local community within the ecosystem, the reserve faces environmental problems that are minimal to severe. They include lake flooding, human-wildlife conflict, hunting, poaching, and deforestation.
Lake Bogoria water level has been steadily rising since 2012/13 when the first administrative office submerged. Nevertheless, the lake receded a couple of times between then and now.
The reserve guide, Mr. Kurere, demonstrated that 2019/20 is one of the periods the lake levels rose more than the previous years.
Lake flooding in 2020 is associated with heavy rains over an extended time. Deforestation, climate change and global warming are also thought to have contributed to the rise. Siltation is also believed to be a great contributor
The floods have devastated the communities living close to the lake, forcing some to relocate, damaged roads and property, including the reserve’s administrative offices.
Flamingos have been pushed out of their regular spots to the roads while others are migrating to new points within the lake. This situation puts the flamingos at risk of humans, monkeys, and baboons.
It is also believed the number of flamingos within the lake has reduced because they have migrated to other nearby and far lakes.
Living among wild animals will, in most cases, result in disunity where destruction from either party occurs. Lake Bogoria National Reserve is home to several animal species that often crossover to people’s lands and destroy crops. The Vervet monkeys and baboons are victims of human anger and retaliation.
Although elephants are rare within the reserve, whenever they come-by, they cause massive destruction, which provokes fear and anger among the locals.
Loss of geysers and hot springs
Geysers and hot springs that are one of the main signatures of Lake Bogoria have been disappearing over the years because of the rising lake levels. Even though the number of visible hot springs has not been confirmed, only a few points out of the documented points could be seen during the visit.
Their disappearance shows the magnitude of lake flooding that could soon render the lake less appealing.
Lake Bogoria National Reserve has been home to several plant and animal species. Indigenous plant species. Human settlement, farming, grazing, charcoal burning, and hunting have destroyed plants and driven many animals such as the Thomson gazelle out of the reserve; the gazelle might have all been killed or migrated to other territories.
Deforestation and charcoal burning
Charcoal burning is a booming business close to the reserve. The charcoal is transported to nearby counties, like Nakuru.
Fears are that continued cutting of trees for charcoal will open up the forested areas exposing animals to hunting or triggering migration.
Predators: It is obvious in any given ecosystem that certain animals will prey on others. This is the same scenario in Lake Bogoria, where the baboons prey on flamingos.
During the time of visit, evidence of siltation could be seen in the water’s colour. Since no experiments were carried out to understand the extent of damage siltation has on the rising levels, it may be challenging to conclude its impact.
What is being done?
The community living close to the reserve has been sensitized on the significance of environmental conservation and wildlife protection. The management involves the community who are the main stakeholders of the reserve in planning and decision making, according to Mr. Kurere.
10% of the proceeds from the reserve goes to the community in the form of sponsorships, scholarships, and bursaries. The community has also benefited in terms of training and educational forums. They are also allowed to graze their animals within the reserve.
Community members are exempted from paying entry fees; this is assumed to motivate the residents to care for their resources. A vital watchdog they are.
In return, the community has formed small conservation groups that establish tree nurseries and grow trees.
Suggestions and recommendations
Lake Bogoria is, in itself, a vital resource that requires more attention and exposure.
Research: More research needs to be done to establish why the lake keeps rising. What is the chance of the lake rising over the next 5-10 years basing on the last seven years of continual rise? What should the communities living close by know or do?