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Location Kenya, Rift Valley Province
Central coordinates 36o 15.00' East  0o 27.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A4i, A4iii
Area 7,200 ha
Altitude 1,775 - 1,950m
Year of IBA assessment 2001


Site description Elmenteita is a shallow alkaline lake (1,800 ha; maximum depth 1.9 m) lying on the Rift Valley floor some 20 km south-east of Nakuru town. It is fed by the Kekopey hot springs at its southern end, and two small streams, the Meroronyi and Kariandusi, flowing from the eastern plateau. The surrounding landscape is characterized by dramatic rocky faults, volcanic outcrops and cones. Rainfall is erratic and averages less than 600 mm/year. To the east, the lake is flanked by small-scale agriculture, while several large ranches surround the remainder. The northern and south-eastern lakeshores are open and flat, a spectacular cliff rises to the north-east, and the western shores are broken and rocky. The natural vegetation is mainly Acacia and Tarconanthus camphoratus bushland interspersed with Themeda triandra grassland. Patches of Acacia xanthophloea woodland occur near the shore, and formerly covered a large area south of the lake. The IBA consists of the lake and its surrounding shoreline, including the hot springs and the cliffs, and the Soysambu Wildlife Sanctuary (5,400 ha), part of the Delamere Estate, that abuts the lake to the north and west.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 2 for key species. The threatened, restricted-range Prionops poliolophus occurs in the surrounding woodland (where it may be resident), and Euplectes jacksoni is a seasonal visitor nesting in the tall grassland. The lake consistently holds internationally important populations of Phoenicopterus ruber (1991–2001 January mean: 5,600) and P. minor (1991–2001 January mean: 140,300) and Recurvirostra avosetta (1991–2001 January mean: 1,440). At least 69 waterbird species are recorded, including 29 Palearctic migrants. Fish have recently spread from the peripheral hot springs to the main lake, but even before this Elmenteita often hosted large numbers of Pelecanus onocrotalus. Up to 8,000 pairs have bred there when water levels are high and rocky outcrops in the eastern sector are flooded to form islets, on which the birds can safely nest. The pelicans move daily to Lake Nakuru (IBA KE049) to feed. Phoenicopterus ruber have also bred at Elmenteita in the past, but have been displaced by pelicans in recent years. There have been occasional, but unsuccessful, breeding attempts by Phoenicopterus minor. The woodland and bushland are rich in birdlife (over 400 species have been recorded), particularly raptors. Globally threatened species additional to those shown in the Box are Falco naumanni, which occurs on passage, and vagrant Aquila clanga and Parus fringillinus. Regionally threatened species include Podiceps cristatus (which has nested here recently), Casmerodius albus (an important non-breeding site, with regularly more than 50 and as many as 156 counted in January 1994); Trigonoceps occipitalis; Hieraaetus ayresii; Stephanoaetus coronatus; Polemaetus bellicosus; Buphagus africanus; and Euplectes progne.

Non-bird biodiversity: Soysambu holds good populations of large mammals, including an introduced population of Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi. The snake Bitis worthingtonii, endemic to the central Rift Valley above 1,500 m, is known from here. The cichlid fish Oreochromis alcalicus grahami, endemic to alkaline lakes in this part of the Rift Valley, occurs in the hot springs and has recently spread to the main lake.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis winter  1990  3,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1993  23,800 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor winter  2000  588,400 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
African Spoonbill Platalea alba winter  1994  260 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus winter  1992  11,800 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus breeding  1999  8,000 breeding pairs  unknown  A4i  Least Concern 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta winter  1997  4,200 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Grey-crested Helmet-shrike Prionops poliolophus resident  1999  present  A1, A2  Near Threatened 
Jackson's Widowbird Euplectes jacksoni resident  1999  present  A1, A2  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  500,000-999,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2009 very high very unfavourable negligible
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Climate change and severe weather drought happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration very high
Climate change and severe weather habitat shifting and alteration happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Pollution air-borne pollutants - smog happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Pollution industrial & military effluents - type unknown/unrecorded happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Residential and commercial development commercial and industrial development happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) moderate to rapid deterioration low

Wetlands (inland)   0 0 poor (40-69%) very poor (< 40%) very unfavourable

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  No management planning has taken place  Very little or no conservation action taking place  negligible 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Lake Elementeita Wildlife Sanctuary Game Sanctuary 2,534 protected area contained by site 2,534  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Savanna Bushland & thicket - evergreen  -
Wetlands (inland) Saline lakes  30%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
urban/industrial/transport -
tourism/recreation -
forestry -

References Bennun (1992a,c), Brown (1973), Hughes and Hughes (1992), Lincer et al. (1981), Nasirwa (1998), Nasirwa and Bennun (1994, 1995), Nasirwa and Owino (2000), National Biodiversity Unit (1991), Owino and Nasirwa (2001), Owino et al. (in press), Oyugi and Owino (1998a,b, 1999), Oyugi et al. (1993), Richards (1991), Spawls (1978), Vareschi (1978).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Lake Elmenteita. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016

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