Lake Turkana National Parks
Lake Turkana National Parks
Natural Kenya Africa

The most saline of Africa's large lakes, Turkana is an outstanding laboratory for the study of plant and animal communities. The three National Parks serve as a stopover for migrant waterfowl and are major breeding grounds for the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus and a variety of venomous snakes. The Koobi Fora deposits, rich in mammalian, molluscan and other fossil remains, have contributed more to the understanding of palaeo-environments than any other site on the continent.

The area is characterized by a semi-desert habitat. The open plains are flanked by volcanic formations including Mount Sibiloi, the site of the remains of a petrified forest possibly 7 million years old. The Central Island, in the middle of Lake Turkana is a volcanic island (500 ha). The lake shore is mostly rocky or sandy, with little aquatic vegetation.

Grassy plains with yellow spear grass and Commuphera and Acacia species predominate. Scrubby salvadora bush is found on Central Island. The north-eastern shore of the lake is mostly rocky or sandy, with little aquatic vegetation.

Mammals include Burchell's and Grevy's zebras, Grant's gazelle, Beisa oryx, hartebeest, topi, lesser kudu, lion, cheetah and crocodiles. Lake Turkana is an important flyway for north-bound migrants. A total of over 350 species of aquatic and terrestrial bird have been recorded in Lake Turkana. Central Island has a breeding population of African skimmer, which nests in banks. It is also an important staging post for migrating birds including warblers, wagtails and little stints.

At Koobi Fora to the north of Alia Bay, extensive palaeontological finds have been made, including the evidence of the existence of a relatively intelligent hominid 2 million years ago (reflecting the change in climate from that supporting moist forest grasslands to present-day desert). These human fossils include the remains of Australopithecus robustus , Homo habilis , Homo erectus and Homo sapiens . Other findings include a wide diversity of ancestors of modern animal species. There are over 100 archaeological sites.