Climate change threatens world’s flamingo population: ‘Their very existence is at stake’

Kenya Wildlife Service is sounding the alarm on a new threat to flamingos in the country.

Lake Bogoria is home to half of the world’s population of flamingos, which is roughly 3.5 million total. Flamingos prefer shallow water, but as climate change disrupts ecosystems, water levels in the region are increasing. This is bringing in an invasive species of plant called prosopis juliflora shrubs or mathenge.

Flamingos are getting trapped in the prosopis which grows in the lakes the birds once relied on for food. When the birds touch down on the water to swoop in for algae, they become ensnared in the prosopis. Once they are trapped they can’t feed.

“We have never experienced a situation whereby the flamingos are being trapped by this invasive plant, the prosopis,” James Kimaru, senior warden for the Kenya Wildlife Service at Lake Bogoria National Reserve, told the Associated Press.

But the increasing water levels create other problems as well. Not only is it hospitable to invasive plant species, but it is inhospitable to the algae that the flamingos eat. Lake Bogario has expanded more than 10 square kilometers over the last decade due to heavy, unprecedented rains. It has become so big it has passed the jurisdiction of the National Reserve, making the birds more susceptible to harm from humans without the Reserve’s protection.

“This is new basically to us because and we are still documenting it to see what is the impact of this within this area, like in particular in Bogoria we counted 300 to 400 birds caught up in mathenge while we counted 400,000 lesser flamingos,” wildlife ecologist Paul Gacheru told the Associated Press.

About 8.8 percent of Kenya’s national GDP is from flamingo-related tourism.

“The flamingos provide a stunning view, but with the current situation, their very existence is at stake,” Kimaru told the Associated Press.

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