Lake Sonfon – Sierra Leone

 

Lake Sonfon, also known as Lake Confon, is a fresh water lake situated in the Sula Mountains at an altitude of 549 m. At a size of 8.2 km², 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 from the southern end of the lake. The nearest, larger village is Kabala, which lies 60 km north of the lake.

 

Rare and endangered species

 

The lake region offers a unique habitat for up to 115 bird species, according to a survey conducted in 1994. These include some rare species such as Iris Glossy-starling (Lamprotornis iris), Dybowski's Twinspot (Euschistospiza dybowskii), Splendid Sunbird (Cinnyris coccinigastrus), Red-faced Pytilia (Pytilia hypogrammica) and Pied-winged Swallow (Hirundo leucosoma). Additionally, the lake is an important habitat for some endangered mammals including the Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis), Black Duikers (Cephalophus niger) and Maxwell's Duikers (Philantomba maxwellii). 2,000 different plant species were counted around the lake, 47 of them are endemic.

 

During the rain season, the water level rises, causing flooding of the surrounding area. In the dry season the lake is completely covered with vegetation. The landscape around the lake consists of forests, wooded savannah, grassland and farmland. The lake is a key conservation area and a proposed protected area but as of 2011 there is no protection mechanism in place.

 

Impacts threatening 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 streams, the harmful chemicals from the mining are often transported 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.

 

Since 2011, the non-profit organization Friends of the Environment and Culture (FOTEC) has worked towards protecting this unique ecosystem and the flora and fauna within.

 

Friends of the Environment and Culture (FOTEC)

Contact Person: Mr. Michael James

109 Campbell Street

Freetown

Sierra Leone, West Africa

Phone: 00232 - 76 - 635 - 937 / 76 - 719 - 996

Fax: 00232 - 22 44 39

E-mail: fotec2010@yahoo.com

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