Working for birds in Africa

Key conservation caucus urges protection of Lake Natron

Date posted: 
Saturday, October 4, 2008

Conservationists from all over Africa and other parts of the world have strongly urged the Government of Tanzania to ensure the protection of Lake Natron. The site is the world’s most important breeding site for Lesser Flamingos Phoeniconaias minor.

At the recently concluded 12th Pan-African Ornithological Congress (PAOC 12), held near Cape Town, South Africa, the experts expressed concern that the proposed soda ash mining at Lake Natron raises serious questions about the future of the lake and its flamingos.

In a resolution unanimously passed during the closing day, the meeting noted that the lake is uniquely suitable for Lesser Flamingo nesting because of the chemical composition of the water, the presence of a suitable substrate for nest construction, and very effective isolation from disturbance by humans and predators.

“The Lesser Flamingo population in Eastern Africa, of some 1.5-2.5 million birds, accounting for 75% of the global population, is therefore dependent on this lake for its survival”, stated the resolution signed by the PAOC Committee Chairman Professor Adrian Craig.

Tata Chemicals Ltd backed up by the Government of Tanzania has proposed to construct a soda ash plant capable of producing 500,000 tonnes of soda ash (sodium bicarbonate) at Lake Natron. The project has drawn worldwide opposition. BirdLife International led the “Think Pink” campaign against the project while a coalition of conservation institutions in Eastern Africa, Lake Natron Consultative Group, spearheaded another.

The PAOC 12 resolution further noted that the display of pink flamingos at lakes in the East African Rift Valley is a major tourist attraction, described as “the greatest ornithological spectacle on earth”. This natural heritage therefore needed to be conserved.

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