By Duncan Oduor.

Wildlife has special means to live in wetlands. Many species have developed ability to live under water for food and oxygen. Clams, crustaceans, fish and many more are all restricted to life under water for all or part of their life. Water depths in wetlands are shallow and wetlands often experience periods of severe drought and many species have special mechanisms to survive the periods. Some species have common survival mechanism of drought resistant eggs that respond to quick re-flooding and short life cycles.

Mammals and birds living in wetlands also have adapted special features for living. These features enable them to feed on rich food sources found in there. Swimming, wading and diving are the most common specializations. Special flying abilities like vertical take-off by ducks, and hovering by terns, permit these birds to fly and feed in small wetland areas. Special means of perching on vertical wetland plants like reeds by some birds is common. Some birds build floating nests .Some mammals have developed means to conserve oxygen and stay under water for long periods and with special fur that keeps the skin dry and easy water shed.

Basically, a principle of ecology does not allow same species to use same environment and food source without a form of competition. Wetlands are very rich in species abundance and diversity and without direct conflict because different species have evolved to use very specific portions of wetlands. Some creatures attach their eggs to plant stems; some have nests that scoop out on the bottom, constantly fan to remove sediments, and some lay eggs only in the shallow rapids between stream pools. Others use holes in rotten trees dying on the edge of a wetland and walk their young ones to the water on their first feeding after hatching. Some species reduce conflict by using special feeding behavior .Feeding at different times of the day or night, restricted feeding to different foods or sizes of food items are also reduce conflict. Swans feed on submerged plants, geese graze on grass on the shoreline, ducks feed on the water or mud surface or dive below the surface beyond the reach of swans. Some water birds move from one type of wetland to another during different seasons or at different stages of their lives. Migratory fish, birds and eels make certain dramatic seasonal movements. Salmon and eels use riverine, estuarine and marine systems at different stages of their life cycles. Certain ducks nest on small palustine wetlands, raise their young in lacustrine systems and spend the winter in estuarine and marine ecosystems. If the wetlands in one of these systems are lost ,these animals cannot complete their life cycle even if the wetlands in other systems remain available Some water fowls nest in trees away from wetlands and only fly to wetlands to feed meaning that not only wetlands but also uplands for nesting need to be preserved.

Within the wetlands there are four major features that are critical for fish and other wildlife. Pattern of different kinds water ,vegetation and substrate, Different life forms of plants, Amount of edge between different kinds of water, vegetation and substrate,· Timing of the seasonal rise and fall of water levels.

These four features in different combinations determine how much fish and wildlife will present in a wetland and how many different kinds of species will be there. Some species require only one kind of habitat but most of them need more.The Lake Elementeita is part of these wetlands in Kenya and needs protection because of its important functions in the ecosystem.


  1. Jimmy

    Kenya’s wetlands are under terrible pressure – many species such as Africa Darter etc. are near extinction due to their destruction:(

  2. Robin Shepard

    What an excellent introduction to Wetlands habitat and species interaction. Including a good deal of detail on micro-systems and migration involvement. While visiting in August, I learned that Soysambu is a special and critical habitat for a number of species. The work done at the Conservancy to keep open migration lines and ensure breeding and estuary grounds is vital to the health of Kenya’s ecosystem. Thanks for this great, informational post!


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