The African Great Lakes are a series of large and small rift lakes located in and around the East African Rift. The most notable among these lakes is Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi. Many of these rift lakes host an incredible biodiversity including many endemic species of flora and fauna. There is an extraordinary diversity of endemic species within the African Great Lakes.
Elephants, gorillas, and hippopotamus can all be found in the African Great Lakes. The short grass that surrounds many of the African Great Lakes makes for the perfect hippopotamus diet, as they are stark vegetarians. Monitor lizards (both Nile Monitor and Savannah Monitor), vervet monkeys, baboons, dikdiks, gazelles, zebras, mongoose, ground squirrels, porcupines, hares, and foxes are all mammals who also can be found around the Great Lake region.
Nile perch can be found throughout Lake Victoria, thought to have been brought to Africa by British colonists. Fish of the African Great Lakes region, like birds, feed on plankton. Many species of cichlids can be found throughout the lakes, and in some lakes such as Lake Malawi, seeing more than 20 fish per square meter is not unheard of. The WWF has suggested that there are more than 500 species of cichlids alone that can be found in the Great Lakes.
The African Great Lakes serve as habitat for over 500 species of birds. Flamingoes particularly can be found in abundance in the Great Lakes region, although their population has been dropping due to run off from farm chemicals and the use of DDT. During European winters, even more bird species migrate to the Great Lakes area. Fish eagles, weaver birds, kingfishers, and pelicans can all be found around the lakes.
Plant life is also in abundance in the Great Lakes region of Africa. A diverse climate ranging from moist rainforests to savannah deserts provides a habitat for all different kinds of flora species. Papyrus (pictured below) is commonly found near the Great Lakes, which can grow to reach a height of four feet. Water hyacinth is a floating plant with a beautiful flower that is either dark purple or lavender in color. It can also be found in the Great Lakes region, although the longevity of all plants is currently threatened by a number of invasive species who have been introduced to the ecosystems around the lakes.