Lake Ihema is located in the south of the Akagera National Park in the savanna region of the Eastern province of Rwanda. The Akagera River feeds a complex of a dozen of lakes including Lake Ihema, which is located at an altitude of 1,292 m. It is the biggest lake in the park, it covers an area of about 90 square kilometers, with a depth varying from 5 to 7 metres depending on the area and the season. The eastern lake shore forms the border between Rwanda and Tanzania.
The lake is rich in biodiversity, except fish, the lake is home to hippopotami and crocodiles. As for birds, it has 550 species including unique species such as Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) and the Papyrus Gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri). Among the endemic species, there are the ibis (Threskiornithinae), jacanas, herons, Plovers (Charadriidae), Sandpipers, Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata), Hawk and many others.
The lake is surrounded by large seasonal and perennial papyrus swamps. These wetlands are important habitats to the protected animals within the park: they do not only provide a permanent source of drinking water for the large mammals, but also form an important water bird sanctuary. Like in other lakes of the park, fishing was restricted by the royal decree of 1934 on creation and management of the national park, but nowadays, a new policy on management of the park has authorized fishing activities.
Threats to Lake Ihema
Lake Ihema is among the protected lakes because it is located in the area of the Akagera National Park. The main threat is water hyacinth which is very abundant. The presence of the water hyacinth on the whole area of the lake constitutes not only a serious threat to the biodiversity of the region but also locally.
The damaging effects of the water hyacinth include the degradation of the water quality because it covers the water and reduces the quantity of dissolved oxygen, phosphate and temperature, resulting in the direct decrease and disappearance of the biodiversity of the affected water body. Additionally, the lake is connected by the Akagera swamps with the Akagera River, that means water hyacinth could be easily spread into nearby waterways such as Lake Victoria and Nile River.