Tag Archives: Tanzania

Tanzania’s blood-red lake snapped from space by NASA

On March 6, 2017, NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite swooped over Tanzania and snapped some incredible pictures of its ruby-red lake.

Lake Natron.

Click for full resolution.
Image credits NASA Earth Observatory.

Northern Tanzania is home to a beautiful, bloody-crimson body of water known as Lake Natron. Apart from its striking hue, the water also has a high concentration of natural salts, making it very alkaline, up to 10.5 on the pH scale.

So what makes a lake turn ruby-red and almost as caustic as ammonia? Well, it all comes down to the area’s geology, particularly its volcanism. The lake sits about 20km north of Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano that juts out of the surrounding plain. Ol Doinyo Lengai is the only volcano known to have ever released carbonatite lava (poor in silica, rich in carbonate minerals) in human history, which is more chemically similar to sedimentary rocks than other types of lava (which are predominantly silica).

Its products flow, fall, roll, and push through faults all the way to the lake, enriching it in alkaline salts and other material. Waterwise, Lake Natron is chiefly supplied by the Southern Ewaso Ng’iro River and mineral-rich hot springs that are powered by Ol Doinyo’s volcanism. Minerals and salts released by this process, particularly sodium carbonate, push the waters of Lake Natron even higher beyond water’s neutral 7 point mark on the pH scale.

Detail of the lake.
Image modified after NASA Earth Observatory.

These conditions are ripe for holoarchaea, a class of microorganisms which thrives in salty environments. As they multiply, the holoarchaea lend the water its red hue — the rainy seasons in the area runs from March to May and at the time Landsat passed over Lake Natron, the water level was particularly low and the salt ponds were very colorful.

Most animals (us too) can’t handle water as alkaline and salty as this, but Lake Natron is home to a few species which have adapted to withstand the harsh chemical conditions. Flocks of birds often camp on its shores, and tilapia fish brave its briny waters. Flamingos, in particular, favor the area as a nesting site during the dry season, since moat-like channels and the harsh waters make an ideal fortification against predators.

Lake Natron detail.

Image credits NASA Earth Observatory.

The climate here is arid. In a non-El Niño year, the lake receives less than 500 millimeters (20 inches) of rain. Evaporation usually exceeds that amount, so the lake relies on other sources—such as the Ewaso Ng’iro River at the north end—to maintain a supply of water through the dry season.

But it’s the region’s volcanism that leads to the lake’s unusual chemistry. Volcanoes, such as Ol Doinyo Lengai (about 20 kilometers to the south), produce molten mixtures of sodium carbonate and calcium carbonate salts. The mixture moves through the ground via a system of faults and wells up in more than 20 hot springs that ultimately empty into the lake. The lake, however, can be a double-edged sword — as this flamingo can attest.

India-Tanzania-Thailand Scientists to Study ‘Bitter Gourd’ for anti-diabetes

HYDERABAD(South India),Jan 22: A group of scientists belonging to three developing countries – India, Thailand and Tanzania – is trying to find out the ideal variety of the ‘bitter gourd’ (Karela) that is believed to check diabetes from ancient times.

They are studying 10 hybrids of the Indian bitter gourd by analyzing the  germplasm and chemical constituents, particularly momordicin, in Hyderabad(Andhra Pradesh-India), Arusha(Tanzania) and Bangkok(Thailand).

The Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre has sponsord the research which, apart from the Indian hybrids, would study 10 hybrids from Thailand, according to a report from Tanzania’s The Citizen.

“We are screening germplasm and will be selecting the best varieties high in anti-diabetic compounds as well as those with good horticulture traits,” a senior scientist associated with the project said.

The scientists are keen to find out whether Karela really fights the diabetes as it has been widely used in India for generations and mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts.

With India recording the highest rate of diabetes in the world, the researchers had chosen Hyderabad as for the ‘project bitter gourd’ as it has reportedly emerged the diabetes capital of the country.

People believe that the vegetable grown in the backyard these days has lost its anti-diabetic properties with the cultivation of a series of hybrid varieties for commercial purpose. This could be felt as the commercial variety is short of the original bitterness and pungency as against the original fruit.

They try to identify which of the 10 hybrids has the higher content of the anti-diabetic chemical – momordicin available in these countries, besides finding ways to increase the bioactive compounds to make it more effective.  The fruit also contains charantin, lectin and gurmarin.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that the number of people with diabetes is expected to rise from 177 million today to 370 million in 2030, and 76 per cent of them will be living in the developing countries.

The UN agency warns that diabetes will become one of the world’s main disablers and killers in the next 25 years.

According to an Indian heart expert, Dr Pujar Suresh, many people in Tanzania are at risk of getting diabetes and high blood pressure due to their poor diets.

In 2009, he examined 200 people at the Regency Medical Centre in Dar es Salaam and noted that many patients were overweight with a risk of diabetes.

The Tanzania Diabetic Association (TDA) has it in a recent report said that the rate of prevalence of the disease doubled two years ago as compared to the situation 10 year ago. The increase is more than six per cent on adult population living in towns. In 2005, it was estimated that there were about 500,000 people, who were diabetic.

Karela, more commonly known as bitter melon, is known worldwide for its miraculous medicinal properties. It is a natural wonder that has proven to be very beneficial for people with a number of diseases, particularly diabetes.
Despite its medicinal value, the Denmark-based World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) does not support or promote the use of bitter gourd for health purposes or funds research projects, its communications manager Jamal Butt told ‘Insight’.


“The World Diabetes Foundation is dedicated to the prevention and awareness of diabetes in the developing countries. We are a funding agency that supports projects through implementing partners in improving access to care and advocacy work,” he said.

“We do not engage in alternative medicines and operational research as such and linking to traditional medicines etc,” he added.

Karela supposedly stimulates insulin secretion metabolizing glucose in our body as it activates pancreas and bile to absorb and secrete juices properly.

It also helps in the digestion of carbohydrate, which is retained in the body as sugar. Karela is supposedly good in lowering the body’s blood sugar level.

As the herbal treatment for diabetes and its  side effects still have to be scientifically proven, bitter gourd has been used as a supplement and not the ultimate cure on a use it alone basis.  //EOM//

A Stunning New Species of Black-and-Yellow Horned Viper discovered in Tanzania

Hyderabad, Jan 12,2012: A strikingly black-and-yellow snake with horn-like scales above its eyes has been discovered to stun the wildlife enthusiasts world over.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has just announced the discovery of the spectacularly colored snake from a remote area of Tanzania in East Africa. The animal, identified as Matilda’s horned viper, measures 2.1 feet (60 centimeters) and looks very majestic with its has horn-like scales above its eyes.

The discovery is described in the December issue of Zootaxa. Authors of the study include: Michele Menegon of Museo delle Scienze of Trento, Italy; Tim Davenport of the Wildlife Conservation Society; and Kim Howell of the University of Dar es Salaam.

Fearing poaching, the authors have kept the exact location of the new species a secret. Its habitat, estimated at only a few square miles is already severely degraded from logging and charcoal manufacture.

The species may soon be classified as ‘critically endangered’ and as such the authors have already established a small captive breeding colony.

The conservationists desire to keep the wildlife trade, both legal and illegal, with its whooping annual turnover of $160 Billion, away from the site so that the scientists could discover more such stunning species in the region.

“Wildlife trade is now the second largest illegal trade in the world after drugs.  Reptiles play a large part in this and unfortunately the illegal trade – especially in wild-caught reptiles – is having a devastating effect on wild populations, the conservations aver.

They maintain that in many parts of Africa, it is the single biggest threat to the existence of many species in the wild. The colourful, fascinating African bush vipers of the genus Atheris are popular pet snakes in many countries. Their natural habitat is seriously threatened and the numbers of wild caught animals destined for the pet trade continues to be unsustainable, they deplore. The snake is named after the daughter of co-author Tim Davenport, Director of WCS’s Tanzania Program.

Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide, through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo.

Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. //EOM//