TANZANIA, UGANDA & KENYA, AFRICA

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is one of the African Great Lakes. With a surface area of approximately 59,947 km² Lake Victoria is Africa's largest lake by area, the world's largest tropical lake, and the world's second-largest fresh water lake by surface area after Lake Superior in North America. In terms of volume, Lake Victoria is the world's ninth-largest continental lake, containing about 2.424 km³. With an average depth of 40 m and a maximum depth of 80m, the lake is rather shallow, compared to his size, and compared to other African Great Lakes. The lake's area divides among Tanzania (49%), Uganda (45%), and Kenya (6%)

What makes it special

It is the world’s largest tropical lake and the second largest freshwater lake. The lake is famous for its tremendous fish biodiversity. The lake is home to many species of fish, which live nowhere else, especially cichlids. Invasive fish, such as the Nile perch, have driven many endemic species to extinction. This is why a documentary called Lake Victoria “Darwins Nightmare”.

Protection status

· Ramsar sites 89 and 275, Wetland of International Importance
· EU Natura 2000
· Several Special Protection Areas at the shores

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Biodiversity

Lake Victoria and its surrounding region host a diverse range of mammals, including species like hippos, African Clawless Otters, and Marsh Mongooses. The lake and wetlands support reptiles such as Nile Crocodiles and various turtle species. In terms of fish, Lake Victoria was historically abundant in cichlids, particularly haplochromine cichlids, boasting over 500 species, most of which are endemic. However, the lake has experienced a decline in fish species since the 1940s, with many becoming extinct. The remaining cichlids species display remarkable adaptations, and their rapid evolution over the past 15.000 years has attracted scientific interest in understanding the forces driving biodiversity. This cichlid group is part of a larger assembly of over 700 closely related species found in several lakes in the region.

Local Communities

A population of over 30 million people live in its basin.

Threats

The ecological health of Lake Victoria has been severely compromised by a rapidly growing human population. The clearing of natural vegetation along the shores, a booming fish export industry, the introduction of several exotic plant and animal species causes major problems to the lake. Most notably is the proliferation of water hyacinth in Lake Victoria. Fueled by elevated nutrient levels from untreated sewage, this has led to oxygen depletion and adverse effects on fish and human health. About 50% of fish species disappeared, prolific algal growth, and the dumping of untreated sewage by various industries and settlements are severe consequences.

 

The Living Lakes Network awarded Lake Victoria as Threatened Lake of the Year in 2005.