By Dan Kaburu, Giants Club African Conservation Fellow, People Daily.
Published 27 November 2018.
Rift Valley, the cradle of mankind, is known for its many lakes. The lakes are tourist attraction sites earning regional counties billions of shillings in revenue.
But one such facility, Lake Kamnarok Game Reserve in Kerio Valley, Baringo, could soon be extinct if nothing is done to save it.
The lake that was once home to more than 10,000 crocodiles, the second in Africa after Lake Chad, 400 elephants, 13 species of other mammals is now a shadow of its former self.
Birds migrate Rampant human activities such as wanton felling of trees for charcoal burning and farming as well as invasion of water hyacinth are posing a major threat to the reserve.
The number of crocodiles has reduced to below 3,000 with the situation getting worse every day.
At the shores of the lake you will be forgiven to think it’s a farm, because of the water hyacinth and other types of vegetation that have covered it over time. Lake Kamnarok is located at the base of Elgeyo Marakwet escapement.
This reporter’s mission to catch a glimpse of the rare crocodile species was not easy. It was a whole day walk in vain.
The ecosystem also used to hosts 59 birds species but today most of them have migrated to other areas. The park hosts 600 elephants, with more than 20,000 people and more than 500,000 heads of cattle depending on it.
Reclaiming lost glory Due to the drying-up of the lake, human-wildlife conflicts have increased. When we visited, a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger was being buried at a nearby village after he was trampled on by an elephant while preventing them from accessing the village.
The death of the lake is occasioned by poor land use, uncontrolled charcoal burning and other human activities in the upper areas of the lake which has led to siltation. There are fears that the situation could get worse because of the construction of Ainamoi Barwesa -Koloa road. The loose soil from the construction finds its way to the lake when it rains.
Baringo Governor Stanley Kiptis admits that the lake is on its deathbed and urges stakeholders to partner with the county government to save it. “The lake was once a tourist attraction site but today no tourists visit,” he said.
The county government has also embarked on reviving the lost glory of the lake with the devolved unit setting aside Sh1 .2 million in a pilot project aimed at removing the invasive water hyacinth from the lake.
AT A GLANCE
The ox-bow lake located about 30 kilometres from Kabarnet town in Baringo North was gazetted as a reserve in 1983.
The water hyacinth has covered about 90 per cent of the lake choking the shoreline and blocking its tributaries.
Continued land tussle between locals bordering the reserve and Kenya Wildlife Service has not helped issues here either which has derailed efforts by the Baringo County government to revive its lost glory.
‘ The lake was once a tourist attraction site but today tourists don’t visit -Kiptis
Read the full story here. This story is reproduced here as part of the Giants Club African Conservation Journalism Fellowships, a Space for Giants programme to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in the four countries where we work.