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Can birds be transformed into stones? Explore the secrets of Africa’s Lake Natron

Can birds be transformed into stones? Explore the secrets of Africa’s Lake Natron

Tanzania’s Lake Natron is a very serene, beautiful and undisturbed lake. Yet, curious researchers and travelers have experienced some of the most whimsical spectacles of life in it. They have found the unlucky birds to be calcified and wholly transformed into stone-like structures after crashing into the deadly waters.

Why Birds turned into Stones?

The water of the lake is alkaline in nature with a pH value of 10.5, indicating a high content of sodium bicarbonate. The water flows into the lake from the hills surrounding it. Researchers have stated that the water is so erosive that it can burn the skin and eyes of individual animals and birds. They cannot adapt to live by its harsh shoreline. It is more astonishing to state that the water acts as a preservative as well. The reason behind the calcification of the animals is the occurrence of preservation, which is similar to that of Egyptian mummification.

The high salinity of the water is responsible for eroding and hardening the bodies of birds, thereby making them appear like stones. The lake has threatened most of the wildlife due to the harsh conditions. Lake Natron is one of the two alkaline lakes in the area of East Africa, the other being Lake Bahi. Both of them are terminal lakes that do not drain out into other rivers or sea. Hot springs and small rivers feed these lakes. Being shallow lakes and existing in hot climatic conditions, their temperatures can increase as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit or 41 degrees Celsius.

Fauna of The Lake Natron:

Some animals and birds have well adapted to the alkaline conditions of the lake. Even though the lake is unusually hot, it supports a single species of fish, the white-lipped or alkaline tilapia. The fish is small (about 10 cm in length) lives on the edges of the hot spring inlets, where the water is between 36 and 40 °C.

It is endemic to the saline lakes of the Rift Valley. It is adapted to withstand the high temperatures and salinity of the lakes as well as the changes in conditions brought about with the rains.

Surprisingly, the lake is the home to huge flocks of greater and lesser flamingos that breed on the mudflats surrounding the lakes. During the breeding season, more than 2.5 million lesser flamingos use the shallow lakes as their primary breeding grounds.

The lesser flamingos filter the blue-green algae out of the salty water. In contrast, the greater ones feed upon the copepod larvae living in the shallow waters of the lake. It is an attractive mating site for flamingos because the water stays low enough to prevent nest flooding but remains high enough that there is a barrier between predators and the conical nests the birds build. The East African Halophytic is threatened by the active development of the hydroelectric power plant on the Ewaso Ngiro River. The lake receives its water through this river, which the government of the country failed to protect.

This would be harming the biodiversity of the place, thereby, threatening the principal breeding ground for flamingos in the future, states the researchers who were engaged in exploring the ecosystem of the lake.


Arusha will be your base for your adventure to the lake. There is one bus daily called Loliendo. It leaves at 6 am, and you would have to book your tickets the day before or risk standing for 5-6 hours. If you are a fan of natural history and are curious about the stunning view of naturally mummified birds, then you must visit Lake Natron. If you are not a safari fan, then the dry season is the best as there is an absence of wildlife in the area.

It is an excellent time for walking tours around the lake, and also for trekking up Ol Doinyo Lengai. The hot, humid spells occur in January and February, bringing new life to the area around Lake Natron. If you are adventurous and safari fan, this is the best time for you.

Pack your Bag and Explore the place with Friends & Family


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