Natural Properties - Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley (Kenya)
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Documents WHC-11/35.COM/8B and WHC-11/35.COM/INF.8B2,
2. Inscribes the Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya, on the World Heritage List under criteria (vii), (ix) and (x);
3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
The Kenya Lake System is composed of three alkaline lakes and their surrounding territories: Lake Bogoria, 10,700 ha; Lake Nakuru, 18,800 ha; and Lake Elementaita, 2,534 ha. These lakes are found on the floor of the Great Rift Valley where major tectonic and/or volcanic events have shaped a distinctive landscape. Some of the world's greatest diversities and concentrations of bird species are recorded within these relatively small lake systems. For most of the year, up to 4 million Lesser Flamingos move between the three shallow lakes in an outstanding wildlife spectacle. Surrounded by hot springs, geysers and the steep escarpment of the Rift Valley with its volcanic outcrops, the natural setting of the lakes provides an exceptional experience of nature.
Criterion (vii): The Kenya Lake System presents an exceptional range of geological and biological processes of exceptional natural beauty, including falls, geysers, hot springs, open waters and marshes, forests and open grasslands concentrated in a relatively small area and set among the landscape backdrop of the Great Rift Valley. The massed congregations of birds on the shores of the lakes including up to 4 million Lesser Flamingos which move between the three lakes is an outstanding wildlife spectacle. The natural setting of all three lakes surrounded by the steep escarpment of the Rift Valley and associated volcanic features provides an exceptional experience of nature.
Criterion (ix): The Kenya Lake System illustrates ongoing ecological and biological processes which provide valuable insights into the evolution and the development of soda lake ecosystems and the related communities of plants and animals. Low species diversity and abundant resident populations of birds and other animals make the soda lakes of the property especially important environments in which to conduct investigations of trophic dynamics and ecosystem processes. The production of huge biomass quantities in these distinctive soda lakes and the food web that this green algae supports are also of international scientific value, and provide critical support to birds, which visit the property in large numbers as part of their migration in response to seasonal and episodic changes in the environment.
Criterion (x): The Kenya Lake System is the single most important foraging site for the Lesser Flamingo in the world with about 1.5 million individuals moving from one lake to the other and provides the main nesting and breeding grounds for Great White Pelicans in the Great Rift Valley. The lakes' terrestrial zones also contain important populations of many mammal and bird species that are globally or regionally threatened. They are home to over 100 species of migratory birds and support globally important populations of Black-Necked Grebe, African Spoonbill, Pied Avocet, Little Grebe, Yellow Billed Stork, Black Winged Stilt, Grey-Headed Gull and Gull Billed Tern. The property makes a critical contribution to the conservation of the natural values within the Great Rift Valley, as an integral part of the most important route of the African-Eurasian flyway system where billions of birds are found to travel from northern breeding grounds to African wintering places.
The three lakes constituting the property represent the most significant Rift Valley lakes within Kenya, and are an essential component of those in the Great Rift Valley as a whole. Each of the three components of the property is gazetted as a protected area and whilst the property is of small size, it contains the main ecosystems and features that support its Outstanding Universal Value. Surrounded by an area of rapidly growing population, the property is under considerable threat from surrounding pressures. These threats include siltation from soil erosion, increased abstraction of water in the catchment, degradation of land, deforestation, growth in human settlements, overgrazing, wildlife management, tourism and pollution coming from Nakuru town. Management authorities must be vigilant in continuing to address these issues through effective multi-sector and participatory planning processes.
Protection and management requirements
Each component of the property enjoys adequate legal protection, up-to-date management plans and a satisfactory on-ground management presence. In order to maintain and enhance the Outstanding Universal Value of the property it will be important to sustain and enhance this effective management, and to address a range of long-term issues. These include catchment level management of threats and development with particular emphasis on management of groundwater and surface pollution and forest cover, inter-sectoral and participatory management processes especially with respect to environmental impact assessment of adjoin development and the building of increased ecological connectivity between the component parts of the system. Transboundary cooperation is also important as the values of the property are partly dependant on protection of other lake and wetland areas that support migratory species. In this regard there is potential for other areas, including Lake Natron in Tanzania, to be considered as part of a future transnational serial World Heritage property.
4. Commends the State Party on the significant efforts to improve conservation of the property and to reduce the impacts of surrounding land use through effective management of development and threats within the lake catchments;
5. Also commends the State Party on its decision to abort the proposed landfill development close to Lake Nakuru National Park in order to avoid impact and keep open options for ecological connectivity between Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita through the Soysambu Conservancy;
6. Encourages the State Party to continue to strengthen the protection and management of the property, including in relation to the following issues:
a) To upgrade the protection of Lake Elementaita through strengthened legal protection, recruitment of site-specific staff, and prohibition of cattle grazing so that it is afforded a similar standard of protection as the other components of the property,
b) To take any effective action which could reinforce the link between and the conservation of the three parts of the property, including protecting secondary ecological areas and opening wildlife corridors such as that linking Lakes Nakuru and Elementaita through the Soysambu Conservancy,
c) To enhance catchment-wide efforts to curb deforestation especially on the Mau Escarpment within the watershed of Lake Nakuru,
7. Considering the property's essential function within the lakes and wetlands in the region, also encourages the States Parties of Kenya and Tanzania, and other relevant States Parties, to cooperate regarding the effective conservation of Lake Natron and other lakes in the region, and to consider further potential serial extensions as part of a potential transnational serial World Heritage property, taking account of relevant recent thematic studies by Birdlife and IUCN.