An Indian company's plans to build a plant to harvest soda ash, or sodium carbonate, from Lake Natron in northern Tanzania could spell the end for the endangered lesser flamingo, the smallest of the six flamingo species. The lake is the only major breeding site, and half a million of the pink birds flock to the lake every summer.
Lesser flamingos stand 4-5 feet tall, lay eggs only every 5 or 6 years, and are highly sensitive to changes in water levels or quality. If Tata Chemicals succeeds, "the chances of lesser flamingos continuing to breed ... are next to zero," said one conservationist. Sodium carbonate is used primarily in the manufacture of glass and laundry detergent.