Rains May Be to Blame for Kenya Flamingo Deaths
Natural changes in the environment, not man-made pollution, may be to blame for the mass deaths of flamingos in Kenya, scientists said on Thursday.
Tens of thousands of the birds have died in recent years in the east African country, where they are a major tourist draw and adorn postcards, T-shirts and holiday snaps.
Researchers from environmental campaign group Earthwatch said flamingos at Lake Bogoria were only getting a tenth of their daily food needs because heavy rains had swollen streams flowing into the lake, diluting the algae they rely on.
They also observed changes in the behaviour of the birds, which were no longer wading in groups on the lakeshore, but feeding in open water or from small rain puddles and streams.
"In seven years of working at Lake Bogoria I have never seen lesser flamingos feeding from streams and puddles," team leader David Harper of Leicester University said in a statement.
"We now fear that food stress might lead to large scale flamingo mortality either directly through starvation, or indirectly by increasing susceptibility to infectious diseases."
Earthwatch said its results suggested natural fluctuations of the environment, rather than pollution, were the main cause of Kenya's mass flamingo deaths.
Tens of thousands of the birds died in the 1990s, threatening crucial income from tourism. Many blamed pollution, but the exact cause of the fatalities has remained an enigma.
Kenya's flamingos belong to the "lesser" species, 80 percent of which live in Africa.