Date Published: 23 Sep, 2009
Lake Nakuru National Park, one of Kenya’s leading tourist attraction sites, has been branded an international bird sanctuary. It becomes the first site to receive such the Important Bird Area (IBA) celebrity status in Africa in recognition of its outstanding value to bird conservation. The park that is home to more than 450 bird species is world famous for its concentrations of both greater and lesser flamingoes, which cover the lake edge in a layer of bright pink.
Four years ago the park was branded as a ‘bird watcher’s paradise’ by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) under a national programme aimed at designating selected national parks and reserves as world class destinations and conservation areas. Kenya Wildlife Service Director Julius Kipng’etich noted that the new status was a huge boost to the park’s marketing efforts as ‘the world’s greatest ornithological spectacle” IBA, a global project that identifies and conserves areas vital to the survival birds and other biodiversity, works with government agencies, community groups and other organisations.
Forestry and Wildlife Minister Dr Noah Wekesa, who presided over the event in Lake Nakuru National Park, said Kenya was diversifying its tourist’s circuits by opening up Western and Northern circuits key being the IBA sites on the shores of Lake Victoria, Cherang’ani Hills and others which would be marketed to open up the areas for development.
Citing Kenya as a one of the leading countries in Africa regarding biodiversity and number of bird species, Dr. Wekesa hailed the IBA status as an impetus for raising awareness in order to reduce stress on birds.
A new checklist of the birds of Kenya, produced by the Bird Committee of Nature Kenya was launched at the same event.
Lake Nakuru National Park will be the first of over 7,500 sites identified as Important Bird Areas in nearly 170 countries that will have an IBA logo used in the Park. Lake Nakuru was the country’s first national park to have birds as its primary attraction, and is one of the most popular parks in Kenya.
IBAs are recognised for their value world-wide, attracting interest from birdwatchers, conservationists and planners, governments and donor agencies. Lake Nakuru National Park will hope to reap from the new celebrity status in as many ways.
The Important Bird Area Programme is coordinated nationally by Nature Kenya – the East Africa Natural History Society – the BirdLife International Partner in Kenya. Nature Kenya, a membership organisation founded in 1909, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Opening of the IBA signboard
The IBA Program is a global effort to identify and conserve areas that are vital to the survival birds and other biodiversity. By working with government agencies, community groups, and other organisations, Nature Kenya seeks to interest and activate a broad network of supporters to ensure that all Important Bird Areas are properly managed and conserved.
The branding function coincided with the annual Cycle with the rhino sporting-cum-fundraising event that raises money for conserving Lake Nakuru. Sponsors of the cyclists raised Sh7.25 million, most of which will be used for building a modern baboon-proof electric fence around the park and mitigating human-wildlife conflict.
Lake Nakuru National Park was created in 1961 as a bird sanctuary. At that time, the famous American bird artist and author Roger Tory Peterson called the massed flamingos on the lake "the world's greatest ornithological spectacle". Currently, the park has over 450 varieties of birds, many of them migrant visitors form the Northern hemisphere. The park supports a wide ecological diversity with Flamingos (Greater and Lesser) and other water birds being the major attractions of the area. The ecosystem comprises of the lake, surrounded by mainly wooded and bushy grasslands and provides for about 56 different species of mammals, including the white rhino and buffaloes.
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