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The BBC's Christine Stewart
"Hundreds of birds are dying each day"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 07:36 GMT
Flamingoes dying in Kenya
A soda lake and home to many of the world's flamingoes
Bogoria's soda lake houses many of the world's flamingoes
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) says thousands of flamingoes at national parks in Kenya's Rift Valley are dying from a mysterious disease.

Up to 50,000 birds are said to have succumbed to the disease since July last year on Lake Bogoria, which is reported to have the biggest concentration of the aquatic bird in the world.

The most beautiful view in Africa

English geologist JW Gregory on seeing Lake Bogoria's flamingoes in 1892
The KWS is warning if the disease goes unchecked the flamingo population could be wiped out within the next few weeks.

About 80% of the world's flamingo population are estimated to live on the eastern Rift Valley lakes, with the vast majority living on Lake Bogoria.

Alarming tests

A flamingo specialist at Kenya's Egerton University says that test results are alarming, with traces of metals found in the body tissue of the dead birds.

"In every single bird which we collected and analysed the tissues we found up to nine or ten heavy metals," Gideon Motelin said.

"It is not normal to find arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium and copper in the livers and kidneys of these birds."

Farming blamed

Conservationists say the source of the pollution is probably farms near Lake Nakuru, about 60km south of Bogoria. Flamingoes abandoned Nakuru about two years ago.

"There are large-scale farms there and it's one of the most productive areas in the country," said the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF)'s Jackson Rayini. "It's clearly having an impact."

"If it continues like this we may lose quite a keystone species," Rayini said. "It is extremely worrying."

In recent years, Lake Bogoria has become a permanent home for the birds instead of a stop-over location, and food resources are becoming scarcer.

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