SIERRA LEONE, AFRICA
Lake Sonfon, also known as Lake Confon, is a fresh water lake situated in the Sula Mountains at an altitude of 549 m. With an area of 8.200 ha, Lake Sonfon is the largest inland lake in Sierra Leone. Seven small streams flow into the lake, the Pampane River is the only outflowing stream at the southern end of the lake. The landscape around the lake is made out of forests, wooded savannah, grassland and farmland.
What makes it special
During the dry season, vegetation completely covers the lake. When it rains, the water level rises, causing the surrounding area to flood.
· National Park – Lake Sonfon
· Forest Reserve- Lake Sonfon Sanctuary
The lake region offers a unique habitat for up to 115 bird species. These include some rare species such as Iris Glossy-starling, Dybowski’s Twinspot, Splendid Sunbird, Red-faced Pytilia and Pied-winged Swallow. Additionally, the lake is an important habitat for some endangered mammals including the Pygmy Hippopotamus, Black Duikers and Maxwell’s Duikers. 2.000 different plant species were counted around the lake, 47 of them are endemic.
Lake Sonfon is considered sacred in traditional beliefs, and local people perform cultural ceremonies along its shores. Offerings, including rice and food, are floated into the lake on calabashes. In traditional belief the lake is symbolically intermittent, as well as being intermittent in terms of the amount of water in the dry season and a powerful Djinn lives in the lake.
In 1926, gold mines were discovered in the lake region, and mining activities have since provided an important income for around 15.000 local people. As mining activities are dependent on water, harmful chemicals from mining get into the lake by the inflowing rivers. Due to weather conditions, the influx into the lake has been increasing for many years now, making the threat even more severe. Additionally, hunting activities by the local population pose a major threat to the biodiversity of the lake. Onshore activities, such as residential settlements, industries and farming have also contributed to the threat.