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Location Kenya, Rift Valley Province
Central coordinates 36o 5.00' East  0o 22.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A4i, A4iii
Area 18,800 ha
Altitude 1,750 - 2,070m
Year of IBA assessment 2001


Site description This area comprises a very shallow, strongly alkaline lake (3,300 ha), with surrounding woodland and grassland. Set in a picturesque landscape, the park abuts Nakuru town, an important and expanding agricultural and industrial centre. The lake catchment is bounded by Menengai Crater to the north, the Bahati Hills to the north-east, the Lion Hill ranges to the east, Eburu Crater to the south and the Mau escarpment to the west. Three major rivers, the Njoro, Makalia and Enderit, drain into the lake, together with treated water from the town’s sewage works and the outflow from several springs along the shore. Nakuru was first gazetted as a bird sanctuary in 1960 and upgraded to National Park status in 1968. A northern extension to the park was added in 1974. The foundation of the lake’s simple food chains is the cyanophyte Spirulina platensis, which often occurs as a unialgal bloom. At such times it can support huge numbers of Phoenicopterus minors and the fish Oreochromis alcalicus grahami (introduced in 1960 from Lake Magadi, IBA KE047, to curb mosquitoes). The fish in turn support a number of secondary consumers. The lakeshores are mainly open alkaline mud, with areas of sedge Cyperus laevigatus and Typha marsh around the river inflows and springs, giving way to grassland and a belt of Acacia xanthophloea woodland. Rocky hillsides on the park’s eastern perimeter are covered with Tarchonanthus scrub and magnificent Euphorbia forest.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 2 for key species. The lake is internationally famous for its populations of Phoenicopterus minor; numbers can reach 1.5 million at times, though drastic and unpredictable fluctuations occur. Undoubtedly Nakuru is a very important feeding site for this species; attempts by flamingos to breed here have not been successful. Other waterbirds have increased considerably in numbers and diversity since the introduction of fish in 1961. At times Nakuru is a major feeding ground for Pelecanus onocrotalus, which nest on rocky islets in nearby Lake Elmenteita and move to Nakuru daily to feed. Large numbers of Palearctic waders winter at Nakuru or use the site on passage, and Nakuru (at least in the past) has been a key site in the eastern Rift Valley flyway. Nakuru is rich in birds generally—some 450 species have been recorded. Globally threatened species include Ardeola idae (a non-breeding visitor, May to October); Phoenicopterus minor (a key feeding site for this species); Falco naumanni (a passage migrant, relatively common in the past); and Prionops poliolophus (probably resident in the Acacia woodland, where it has nested). Regionally threatened species include Podiceps cristatus (used to occur in numbers, but no recent records), Oxyura maccoa (no recent records), Casmerodius albus (up to 84 recorded, numbers have declined in recent years), Polemaetus bellicosus (sparse resident), Rynchops flavirostris (no recent records) and Euplectes progne (seasonal visitor, in long grassland).

Non-bird biodiversity: The park is a sanctuary for the rhinos Diceros bicornis (CR) and Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd), the latter introduced from South Africa. Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi was also introduced into the park in 1977. The rare bat Hipposideros megalotis is resident. Other large mammals, some recently reintroduced, include Panthera leo (VU) and small numbers of Acinonyx jubatus (VU).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis winter  1991  7,860 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis winter  1993  600 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1991  9,940 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor winter  1993  1,448,000 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis winter  1991  1,620 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Spoonbill Platalea alba winter  1992  580 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Madagascar Pond-heron Ardeola idae winter  present  A1  Endangered 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus winter  1992  44,430 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni passage  present  A1  Least Concern 
Himantopus himantopus winter  1991  3,120 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Sterna nilotica winter  1992  1,390 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Grey-headed Gull Larus cirrocephalus winter  1991  9,040 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Grey-crested Helmet-shrike Prionops poliolophus resident  1999  present  A1, A2  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1993  1,000,000-2,499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2010 high near favourable high
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Biological resource use gathering terrestrial plants - unintentional effects (species being assessed is not the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Climate change and severe weather habitat shifting and alteration happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases problematic native species/diseases - named species happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Pollution domestic & urban waste water - sewage happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Pollution garbage & solid waste happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Wetlands (inland)   0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  high 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Lake Nakuru National Park 18,800 is identical to site 18,800  
Lake Nakuru Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 18,800 is identical to site 18,800  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Woodland - monodominant  -
Grassland Grassland - edaphic, wet  -
Wetlands (inland) Saline lakes  20%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -
agriculture -

References Bennun (1992a,b, 1993, 1994a), Howard and Bennun (1993), Hughes and Hughes (1992), Mburugu (1974), Mutangah (1994), Myers (1974), Nasirwa (1998), Nasirwa and Bennun (1994, 1995), Nasirwa and Owino (2000), Owino and Nasirwa (2001), Owino et al. (in press), Oyugi and Owino (1998a,b, 1999), Richards (1991), Vareschi (1978), Vareschi and Jacobs (1985).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Lake Nakuru National Park. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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