Wild Events: The Flamingo Feast (4/7)

Friday 26 January: 19.30–20.00
Continuing the fascinating wildlife series, Jake Willers heads to Kenya in the hope of witnessing one of the animal world’s most colourful spectacles – a vast sea of brilliant pink flamingos.

More than 1,000 bird species can be found in Kenya and Jake travels 160km north of Nairobi to one of the jewels in this ornithological crown, Lake Nakuru National Park. When conditions are right, up to 1.5 million flamingos feed around the shores of the park’s shallow lake, forming a dazzling fringe of pink. The flamingos are attracted to Nakuru because it is a soda lake, which means it is rich in dissolved sodium salts. Although flamingos are born with grey or white plumage, the feathers of an adult can be anything from light pink to bright red due to the bright carotenoids contained in the algae and other food they consume.

Jake’s quest to find the flamingos also brings him into contact with an array of other wildlife. Although relatively small, the park is home to more than 50 species of mammal. It was one of Africa’s first rhino sanctuaries, and Jake spots an enormous white rhino grazing. Also well known are the park’s strange-looking woodlands, including the largest euphorbia forest in east Africa. “There is something really eerie about it,” says Jake. “It’s as if some prehistoric creature is about to come running out.”

In fact it is the likes of Rothschild’s giraffes and Burchell’s zebras that Jake and the crew come across – as well as a herd of buffalo. These are one of the most numerous of Africa’s large herbivores. “They have a terrible reputation as an unprovoked killer but if left alone they are quite placid and peaceful animals,” says Jake. Nevertheless he decides not to hang around too long.

Jake is hoping that his route around the reserve is bringing him closer to the flamingos he has come all this way to see, but he is aware that there is no guarantee of a sighting. For one thing, Lake Nakuru is less wildlife-friendly than it once was. The park itself is safeguarded from development but nearby areas are not, and the felling of local forests has caused soil to wash into the lake. Will this hamper Jake’s chances of witnessing his latest wild event?

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