Camels crossing the desert near Africa's highest sand dunes at Temet, Air and Tenere Natural Reserves world heritage site, NigerElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweIce cliffs near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park world heritage site, TanzaniaBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

Lake Tanganyika - Tanzania, DR Congo, Burundi & Zambia

Map showing the location of Lake Tanganyika and the existing national parks of Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains (Tanzania) and Sumbu (Zambia), all possible components of a serial World Heritage SiteConsidered to have potential as a future World Heritage Site

Location and Area: A serial site would provide the best option, perhaps building on the existing national parks in Tanzania (Gombe Stream and MahaleMountains) and Zambia (Sumbu). (see map)

Inscription Status:  Gombe Stream National Park is included on Tanzania’s Tentative List (2015), but none of the lakeshore states have formally recognised the potential for world heritage listing on account the lake’s aquatic biodiversity.

Important Values:  Lake Tanganyika is the world’s second largest body of fresh water (after LakeBaikal).  It is an ancient, deep Rift Valley lake in which evolutionary processes over 12 million years have resulted in an extraordinary diversity of species found nowhere else in the world.  As with Lake Malawi, there have been extraordinary levels of speciation amongst the cichlid fishes (an estimated 250 species), but here evolutionary processes have operated over longer periods and had a broader impact across diverse taxa.  So there are, for example, 145 species of non-cichlid fishes as well as huge diversity in invertebrate fauna.  In view of the nature of the evolutionary pressures and very localised distributions of taxa along the shoreline of the lake a trans-boundary serial site would provide the best option.


Slideshow of Lake Tanganyika (see below for slideshow description):

Slideshow description: This short slideshow features a selection of the lake’s endemic species of fish, now widely known internationally through the aquarium trade.  It starts with the spotted catfish, Synodontis multipunctatus, then shows five species of cichlid from diverse genera - the graceful Neolamprologus brichardi, hump-headed male Cyphotilapia frontosa, two varieties of mouth-brooding Tropheus sp, the elongated cave-dwelling Julidichromis regani and the diminutive Lamprologus ocellatus.  Most of the photos are reproduced from and individually attributed in the watermarks (with thanks to all contributors!).  Following the close-ups of fish, the slideshow illustrates typical lake and shoreline habitats, the steeply forested slopes descending to rocky shorelines, interspersed with wide sandy beaches.  The evolution of so many species within the lake is due to the isolation of populations of rock-dwelling fishes from one another by these wide beach areas (which the fish are unable to safely traverse).  Two of the protected areas along the lake’s shoreline (Gombe Stream and MahaleMountains in Tanzania) are home to Africa’s most easterly populations of chimpanzees and these have gained international recognition through the pioneering work of Jane Goodall and other researchers who have built up a detailed knowledge of individual animals, their behaviours and societies over several decades.  Some of the chimps are shown, but their contribution to defining the lake’s outstanding universal values (and underlying rationale for world heritage listing) would complement (rather than surpass) the importance of the lake’s unique aquatic fauna.

Comparison with other sites:LakeBaikal (Russia) and Lake MalawiNational Park are comparable existing world heritage sites.  A number of other AfricanRiftValleyLakes are included in the ‘Kenya Lakes System’ and Lake Turkana National Parks world heritage sites but Lake Tanganyika is quite distinct from these and certainly deserves consideration for listing.

Possible constraints to world heritage listing: World heritage status could help support conservation efforts in this globally important lake but the activities of artisanal fishermen would need to be curtailed in designated core areas, and the ideal of a trans-boundary listing might be politically difficult to achieve. 

Links:  Google Earth | Official UNESCO Site Details (Gombe NP) | Birdlife IBA (Sumbu NP, Zambia) 


Fine sandy beach at Kipili on the Tanzanian shores of Lake TanganyikaOne of several hundred species of fish found only in Lake Tanganyika, this Cyphotilapia frontosa has evolved into a variety of colour morphs at different locations around the lakeApproaching Mahale Mountains National Park by boat (Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania)Tropheus moorii is one of Lake Tanganyika's endemic species of cichlid fish, exhibiting more than 25 distinct geographically-isolated colour forms at different localities around the lake




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