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Lake Profile


General Information

Description Lake Tanganyika is home to more than 2,000 plant and animal species, and is one of the richest freshwater ecosystems in the world. About 600 of these species exist nowhere else in the world outside the Lake Tanganyika watershed.

Tanganyika is the third largest lake in the world by volume, exceeded only by the Caspian and Baikal. Tanganyika is also one of less than 20 ancient lakes on earth. Lake Tanganyika is the second largest lake in Africa. Although it is less than half the size of Lake Victoria, it drains an area approximately the same size (200,000 km2).

Much of the lake's coastline is high escarpment, falling directly into the lake.

Country Burundi
Congo (Democratic Republic)
Latitude -6° 0' 0" (-6.0000)
Longitude 29° 35' 0" (29.5833)
Lake Region African Great Lakes
River Basin Congo


 Tanganyika global index map (LakeNet Explorer)
 Largest Lakes in the World by Area (LakeNet Explorer 2004)
 Largest Lakes of the World by Volume (LakeNet Explorer 2004)
 Tanganyika locator map
 Lakes of East Africa
 Africa Lake Biodiversity Conservation Priorities 2003
 Ancient Lakes of the World
 Lake Basin Management Initiative (LakeNet Explorer)

Physical Characteristics

Volume 19,000.00 km3
Surface Area 32,600.00 km2
Depth Mean depth: 570.0 m
Maximum depth: 1,470.0 m
Residence Time 440.0 years
Age 2 million - 20 million years before present
Origin Tectonic
Trophic State Oligotrophic
Type Fresh
Catchment Catchment size: 220,000.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 7:1


Economic Value Approximately one million people live around the lake. Tanganyika is a source of fish for consumption and for trade, and a vital transport and communications link between the countries bordering it.
Major Cities Bujumbura, Kigoma
Population 10,000,000 (0)

Watershed Management

Description In 1995 the Global Environment Facility funded a five year project, "Pollution Control and Other Measures to Protect Biodiversity in Lake Tanganyika."

One of the outcomes of the project was a Strategic Action Programme for the Sustainable Management of Lake Tanganyika (SAP) which was developed through a process of stakeholder consultation and public involvement. The SAP outlines a regional framework for national and regional priority actions to achieve the objectives set out by the participating countries. As of 2001, priorities that had been identified included: urban pollution from Bujumbura, sedimentation from mid-sized catchments, overfishing in the littoral zone and habitat destruction.

Watershed Action Plan Developed
Issues Urban pollution sources include boat discharges in the lake. Oil and mineral exploration is also a concern. Measures need to be introduced to manage the ornamental fish trade and future mining projects.
Other Issues Atmospheric Deposition
Invasive Species
Polluted runoff
Specific Contaminants Pesticides

Biodiversity Conservation

Description Lake Tanganyika is home to over 250 cichlid fish species. African cichlid fish are the largest and most diverse radiation of vertebrate species in the world. In addition, Lake Tanganyika also contains other species flocks including non-cichlid fish, gastropods, bivalves, leeches and sponges.

Studying the biodiversity of Lake Tanganyika with national teams of SCUBA divers who conduct habitat profiles and censuses of fish and invertebrates is the foundation of the Biodiversity Special Study (BIOSS) strategy. 22 scientists from national research institutions, fisheries departments, universities, parks, and other collaborating agencies have been trained to SCUBA dive and trained in underwater research techniques.

Designations LakeNet Biodiversity Priority
Ramsar Site
WWF Global 200
Species of Concern The slender snouted crocodile (Crocodylus cataphractus) is restricted to Lake Tanganyika and possibly the lower Malagarasi river.
Species Richness High
Endemism High
Biological Distinctiveness Globally outstanding

LakeNet Programs

World Lake Basin Management Initiative
International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network
LBMI Regional Experience Sharing and Review Workshop for Africa


Tanganyika  Experience Brief. Final. 2/27/2006.


African Lakes and Rivers Research Group
An inquiry into suspended matter in the Luiche and Malagarazi Rivers: Provenance and pathways to Lake Tanganyika, East Africa
Biodiversity Conservation of the World's Lakes: A Preliminary Framework for Identifying Priorities
Chemical Composition of Great African Lakes
Congo River Basin map
Crop Explorer - Global Reservoir and Lake Elevation Monitoring
Crop Explorer - Lake Level Variations from TOPEX/POSEIDON and Jason-1 Altimetry for Lake Tanganyika
Ecosystem monitoring in the development of sustainable fisheries in Lake Tanganyika
Historical and Modern Fluctuations of Lakes Tanganyika and Rukwa and their Relationship to Rainfall Variability
ILEC Database
Lacustrine Rift Basin Research Program
Lake Tanganyika Biodiversity Project
Sustainable management of the African Great Lakes: science for development?
The Nyanza Project
TNC Tuungane Project
World Atlas: Burundi, Africa
World Wildlife Fund Global 200 - Rift Valley Lakes


3/7/2013 - Warming Lakes: Climate Change Threatens the Ecological Stability of Lake Tanganyika
7/24/2012 - Celebration of Lake Tanganyika Day
4/23/2004 - Towards a Lake Basin Management Initiative
8/22/2003 - Border complexity may badly affect fishing rights on Lake Nyasa
8/14/2003 - Lake Tanganyika loses one third of its fish populations due to climate change
6/13/2003 - Countries sign convention to preserve Tanganyika
7/28/2000 - Peacekeepers among the shellseekers
12/1/1999 - Fish in the fast lane

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
Duker, L. and L. Borre. 2001. Biodiversity conservation of the world's lakes: a preliminary framework for identifying priorities. LakeNet Report Series Number 2. Annapolis, Maryland USA.
West, Kelly. 2001. Lake Tanganyika: Results and experiences of the UNDP/GEF Conservation Initiative (RAF/92/G32) in Burundi, D.R. Congo, Tanzania and Zambia.

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