- LAKE BOGORIA, Kenya
(Reuters) - A mystery disease, possibly caused by pollution, is killing
tens of thousands of flamingos on Lake Bogoria in the Kenyan Rift Valley.
- Conservationists are pointing the finger at human pollution
as the cause of the disease, which has killed up to 50,000 birds on the
lake, the biggest concentration of flamingos in the world, since July.
- And some say the disease could call into question the
future of the lesser flamingo, the most common type of the species.
- Tests done on some of the corpses that litter the shores
of the lake have shown alarming results, according to Gideon Motelin, who
specializes in flamingo studies at Kenya's Egerton University.
- ``In every single bird which we collected and analyzed
the tissues we found up to nine or ten heavy metals,'' he told Reuters.
- ``It is not normal to find arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium
and copper in the livers and kidneys of these birds.'' Traces of pesticide
have also been found in the body tissue of the dead birds and conservationists
believe the source of the pollution is the farms near Lake Nakuru, about
60 miles south of Bogoria, which the flamingos abandoned two years ago.
- ``There are large-scale farms there and it's one of the
most productive areas in the country,'' said Jackson Rayini of the Worldwide
Fund for Nature (WWF). ``It's clearly having an impact.''
- Although there were outbreaks of disease in both 1993
and 1995, each lasted for just a month. The latest spate of deaths began
in July, 1999.
- ``If it continues like this we may lose quite a keystone
species,'' Rayini said. ``It is extremely worrying.''
- Eighty percent of the world's flamingo population live
on the eastern Rift Valley lakes, with the vast majority living on the
30 square kilometer Bogoria -- the only real haven left for the bird since
Nakuru became virtually uninhabitable.
- But that haven is also a prison, say the conservationists.
- Bogoria used to be a brief stop-over location for the
flamingos but with nowhere else to go they have made the lake their home
-- and there is just not enough food to go round, placing huge pressure
both on the birds and on the lake.
- SIGHTINGS HOMEPAGE
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