A huge number of lesser flamingos depend on Tanzania's Lake Natron as a breeding site, threatened by a large-scale soda ash development
Three-quarters of the world population of lesser flamingos live and nest in East Africa. All depend on Tanzania's Lake Natron as a breeding site.
Food is plentiful, nesting sites abound – and above all, the lake is isolated and undisturbed.
In 2006, the Tanzanian Government and the Indian company Tata Chemicals put forward proposals to build a large-scale industrial plant to extract soda ash from Lake Natron's water, via a network of pipes across the surface of the lake. New road and rail infrastructure would also be built to serve the soda ash plant.
Thankfully in May 2008 Tata withdrew from the project. But the Tanzanian Government remained committed and the National Development Corporation, a government agency, led a push to find alternative investors.
We believe that the development and associated infrastructure will displace and scatter the 500,000 pairs of lesser flamingos which nest at Lake Natron. It takes very little disturbance to cause an entire breeding colony to abandon its nests. Additionally, the livelihoods of local communities would also be at risk.
In March 2018, the Government of Tanzania announced that they were withdrawing plans to build the soda ash plant at Lake Natron, but would promote an alternative site at Engaruka, some 30 miles (50 km) south of Lake Natron.
This is good news for the lesser flamingos at Lake Natron.