KE044
Lake Baringo This is an IBA in danger! 


Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
The IBA includes Lake Baringo (16,800 ha) and its islands, the bushland within the 1,000 m depression contour surrounding the lake (11,600 ha), and the striking cliffs to the west of Kampi ya Samaki. Baringo, a shallow freshwater lake, lies c.110 km north of Nakuru town. The Laikipia escarpment to the east and the Tugen Hills in the west borders its catchment. The maximum depth is only c.6 m, and the lake is becoming shallower through soil erosion in the surrounding land. Rainfall is c.650 mm/year. The area around the western shore is mainly Acacia tortilis woodland, with small bush-covered hills, gorges and cliffs. Ficus spp. grow on the cliff faces. The north and east have denser bush, thinning out towards the south, dominated by Acacia mellifera, A. reficiens and species of Boscia, Commiphora, Terminalia and Balanites. The open, flat southern part is bushland interspersed with dry riverbeds and stands of Acacia tortilis and A. elatior. Swampy wetlands, with Typha reeds and Echinochloa marsh grass, occur at the mouths of rivers draining into the lake, notably the Ndau, Molo and Mukutan, and much of the shore is lined with Ambatch Aeschynomene sp. The lake supports an important fishery and is a major tourist destination.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. Several of the Somali–Masai biome species are found at few other sites, most notably the uncommon Tockus jacksonii and Tockus hemprichii, the latter frequenting the cliffs, and Onychognathus salvadorii. Baringo is a well-known destination for birdwatchers and over 500 bird species have been recorded. A colony of up to 20 Ardea goliath has nested on one of the islands in the lake. While the diversity of waterbirds is considerable, total numbers are usually only in the low thousands. Globally threatened species include Falco naumanni (a passage migrant in small flocks), Phoenicopterus minor (an occasional visitor, usually on passage), Ardeola idae (a rare non-breeding visitor) and Circus macrourus (a regular passage migrant). A number of regionally threatened species are also recorded, namely Podiceps cristatus (no recent records); Anhinga rufa (small numbers resident, has bred on Ndau Island in the lake); Casmerodius albus (regular, up to 100 recorded); Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis; Thalassornis leuconotus; Trigonoceps occipitalis; Polemaetus bellicosus; Porzana pusilla; and Rynchops flavirostris.

Non-bird biodiversity: The lake supports large populations of Crocodylus niloticus and Hippopotamus amphibius. An apparently range-restricted snake, Coluber keniensis, is known from only one specimen collected here. Little is recorded about the other wildlife values of the area.



Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The main conservation issue in Baringo District is land degradation. This has a long history, being documented as early as 1928. Before the colonial period, livestock numbers were kept at relatively low levels by diseases and stock theft. These forces have been checked since then, and livestock numbers have steadily increased. Overstocking and high grazing pressures have reduced ground cover and encouraged soil erosion. Excessive tree cutting is a related problem: in many areas Acacia reficiens, which is unpalatable to livestock and inhibits the growth of other plants, has replaced the original trees and shrubs. Extensive clearing of large trees for charcoal has seriously degraded some of the most important and well-known birdwatching areas, and changed the nature of the local avifauna. These environmental changes have contibuted to periodic flooding that causes massive episodes of erosion, with most of the soil being washed down into Lake Baringo. The lake is much more turbid than in past years and fish stocks have declined. Excessive offtake of water from the Molo river in its catchment is also a problem, since it has greatly reduced the amount of water reaching the lake. Many environmental projects have attempted to solve these problems, but most have been conspicuously unsuccessful. A community-based initiative begun in 1981 (Rehabilitation of Arid Environments, formerly the Baringo Fuel and Fodder Project) has succeeded in rehabilitating parts of the degraded western shores. Areas are ploughed and contoured to trap water, and replanted with grasses and trees in fenced-off plots. The GEF-funded ‘Lake Baringo Community-based Integrated Land and Water Management Project’, started in 2000 and will continue and expand this work. The lake and part of its hinterland are now a National Reserve under the management of the Baringo County Council. However, this move has not been unanimously welcomed by local residents and hotel-keepers, some of whom claim that the County Council collects gate fees but does little to deal with pressing conservation concerns. Baringo’s ecotourist potential is already being exploited. This needs to be better tied in to the local economy, so that those living around the lake have more of a stake in conserving its special birds and their habitats.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Baringo. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/12/2022.