Natron. Wildlife around the red lake.

Some time ago, a few pictures taken nearby the shores of the Lake Natron (not far from the active volcano Oldoinyo Lengai in the deep north of Tanzania, bordering with Kenya) had a sudden worldwide exposure.

They were showing some petrified animals, stuck nearby the water. Many people started to believe that this was the immediate effect of touching the caustic water of the lake, something deadly for many unlucky creatures.

Actually the reality is a bit different, but the Lake Natron is still one of the most fascinating corners of the World, even though well off the beaten tracks. Its water can reach temperatures up to 60 °C and has an alkalinity between pH 9 and pH 10.5, which of course make the environment not suitable for most of the species.

The chemical composition and the geological setting of this place, on the other hand, are the cause of some phenomena that you can see walking nearby the lake.

It is a fact that most of predators cannot survive there, but this is the reason why other species settled in this area – such as flamingos returning yearly for the breeding season. The hot and salty water doesn’t harm them, but it keeps their enemies away.

Even the hot and salty water can be home for something alive. A huge concentration of cyanobacteria is typical here, and this is the reason why the lake looks red. Other flora growing here is Spirulina, an algae which is food for flamingos.

This is how life works in the remote area of the Lake Natron. Just one question hasn’t been replied yet: what happened to the animals in the pictures? Not so obvious, but science can provide an explanation. In this caustic environment dead animals don’t rot, but mummify. And this is what came across the photographer’s way that time!