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Let's talk about Nairobi National Park. (Kenya)


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#1 Game Warden

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 04:23 AM

Lets talk about Nairobi National Park. Following the story here regarding the city's encroachment, I wonder what is the future for the park. And so, let's celebrate its past, its present. Feel free to upload photos, videos and share any interesting stories and sightings from your visit. Matt

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#2 Gareth Jones

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 09:34 AM

Hi all concerned ,

I do not pretend to be an expert , ……however I have been in East Africa for more than 7 years now and have some understanding of the "issues" , I grew up in a conservation environment , my father was an Honorary Ranger-National Parks Board-South Africa and likewise I followed and was appointed in 1989 .......so with my previous experience and understanding my proposal in thinking "Out of the box" is this........

 REGARDING FENCING THE PARK – perhaps consider a combination approach , this will involve properly fencing the parts of the park , that directly confront human habitation , and then fencing a “corridor” , with a though subway underneath the south kitengela tar road to allow migratory movement of wildlife to the south and to be able to return. This has been successfully done in South Africa for the Addo Elephant & Zuurberg National Parks that were linked in a farming area also using a few “subway tunnels” below the main tar road . Yes ! this will cost money , but there needs to be a long term solution , and as we all know it has taken about 8 years to fence the Aberdares Park , so this Nairobi Park could be financed in a phased program ,perhaps through Rhino Charge funding ?
 MASAI CATTLE GRAZING – I am a purist at heart in that certain natural areas need to be keep pristine to ensure that the ecosystems are maintained . However the National Parks in SA ,do have relations with the local communities in the “buffer zones” around the parks , where in previous years poaching was high in the same areas , when local communities were involved in the Park poaching decreased dramatically ....the involvement includes preferred selection of local people for park employment ,managed selected harvesting of firewood and traditional herbs ,occasional sponsored visits for local students to visit the park ,ensuring that local crafts are made available in gate points and shops to be sold to tourists, upgrading schools ,clinics in the local community with income from the park …..in other words the local community must benefit from the park , and want it to continue.......!!!.....now although the NNP issue is uniquely different.......perhaps the following can be considered.......1)Convince the local community that they will still be able to benefit from the park (how that can be done is a matter for discussion) 2)Have an independent survey done on how many cattle are in the area ,adjacent to the NNP and what alternative grazing areas they have 3)After that get the local community to support fencing and the corridor program (this will be challenging and require people with negotiating skills)
 BURNING PROGRAM –Again the SA Parks have a well managed scientific burning program that looks at various factors regarding the vegetation including the ph ,CV value ,moisture content ,wind and when last there was a fire ....now because mankind has effective put up barriers “firebreaks” called roads , in many places in Africa the bushfires still happens naturally through lightening , then a storm with wind , rain and a cycle of new growth.....so the burning program is a attempt the copy a natural cycle...the park is zoned and on average every 7 years a zone is deliberately burned ,the burn is also planned to be a “cold burn” in other words with some wind ,and vegetation that has some moisture ,and ideally when rain is about to be expected . The zones are rotated and the combined effect is the ecosystems have benefited . However the decision to burn is still a wildlife management decision and is not automatically done.

Some “food for thought” ….please comment with your thoughts as well .

Thanks



Best Regards

Gareth Jones
;)

#3 Safaridude

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 10:40 AM

I have visited Nairobi National 4 times (1989 being the first and 2010 being the last time). Needless to say, it has changed dramatically. When you fly over it now, it is amazing that the park "works" at all. I know there are still animal movements (wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, elands) in and out of the park, but from the air it looks all but impossible. And indeed the corridors are closing in.

I think they have two choices: (1) fence it and it will become a glorifited zoo; or (2) there are a couple of substantial private ranches to the southeast (one being the old "Hopcraft Ranch" which is now called "Swara Plains". Somehow figure out how to connect with them (not even sure if it is feasible).

Sadly, I see the same thing that happened to Nairobi (land grab, settlement, human encroachment) happening in the northeastern part of Tarangire.

#4 Safaridude

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 11:03 AM

A couple of photos from NN...

Posted Image
A "quintessential" Nairobi National shot... with buildings in the background


Posted Image
A lioness sleeping near an industrial area boundary

#5 Game Warden

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 11:57 AM

More photos like this please. Gareth, welcome to Safaritalk, I always enjoy you updates on Facebook - lets see some of your great images from the park. BTW it was an interesting with the lions which you had a few years ago. For those who haven't read it, click here: Kruger Park Lion Attack: 13th August 1987.

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#6 Gareth Jones

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 12:29 PM

History

British colonists arrived in the area where the park is located in the late 19th century. At this time, the Athi plains east and south of what is today Nairobi had plentiful wildlife. Nomadic Maasai lived and herded their cattle among the wildlife. Kikuyu people farmed the forested highlands above Nairobi. As Nairobi grew—it had 14,000 residents by 1910—conflicts between humans and animals increased. Residents of the city carried guns at night to protect against lions. People complained that giraffes and zebras walked on and ruined their flower beds. Animals were gradually confined to the expansive plains to the west and south of Nairobi, and the colonial government set this area aside as a game reserve. Settlers from Nairobi including Isak Dinesen, author of Out of Africa, rode horses among gazelles, impala, and zebras in this reserve.

The conservationist Mervyn Cowie was born in Nairobi. Returning to Kenya after a nine-year absence in 1932,he was alarmed to see that the amount of game animals on the Athi plains had dwindled. Expanding farms and livestock had taken the place of the game. He later recalled this place as a paradise that was quickly disappearing. At this time, the area that would later become Nairobi National Park was part of the Southern Game Reserve. Hunting was not permitted in the reserve, but nearly every other activity, including cattle grazing, dumping, and even bombing by the Royal Air Force was allowed. Cowie started to campaign for the establishment of a national park system in Kenya.The government formed a committee to examine the matter.

Officially opened in 1946,Nairobi National Park was the first national park established in Kenya. Masai pastoralists were removed from their lands when the park was created. Cowie was named as director of Nairobi National Park and held this position until 1966. In 1989, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi burned twelve tons of ivory on a site within the park. This event improved Kenya's conservation and wildlife protection image .

Geography

The park covers an area of 117.21 square kilometres (28,963 acres) and is small in comparison to most of Africa's national parks. The park's altitude ranges between 1,533 metres (5,030 ft) and 1,760 metres (5,774 ft).It has a dry climate. The park is the only protected part of the Athi-Kapiti ecosystem, making up less than 10% of this ecosystem.The park has a diverse range of habitats and species.

The park is located about 7 kilometres (4 mi) from the Nairobi's centre. There is electric fencing around the park's northern, eastern, and western boundaries. Its southern boundary is formed by the Mbagathi River. This boundary is not fenced and is open to the Kitengela Conservation Area (located immediately south of the park) and the Athi-Kapiti plains.There is considerable movement of large ungulate species across this boundary.

Flora

The park's predominant environment is open grass plain with scattered Acacia bushes. The western uplands of the park have highland dry forest with stands of Olea africana, Croton dichogamus, Brachylaena hutchinsii, and Calodendrum. The lower slopes of these areas are grassland. Themeda, Cypress, Digitaria, and Cynodon species are found in these grassland areas. There are also scattered yellow-barked Acacia xanthophloea. There is a riverine forest along the permanent river in the south of the park. There are areas of broken bush and deep rocky valleys and gorges within the park. The species in the valleys are predominantly Acacia and Euphorbia candelabrum. Other tree species include Apodytes dimidiata, Canthium schimperiana, Elaeodendron buchananii, Ficus eriocarpa, Aspilia mossambicensis, Rhus natalensis, and Newtonia species. Several plants that grow on the rocky hillsides are unique to the Nairobi area. These species include Euphorbia brevitorta, Drimia calcarata, and Murdannia clarkeana.

Fauna

A giraffe in Nairobi National Park.The park has a large and diverse wildlife population.Species found in the park include African buffalo, baboon, black rhinoceros, Burchell's zebra, cheetah, Coke's hartebeest, Grant's gazelle, hippopotamus, leopard, lion, Thomson's gazelle, eland, impala, Masai giraffe, ostrich, vulture, and waterbuck.

Herbivores, including wildebeest and zebra, use the Kitengela conservation area and migration corridor to the south of the park to reach the Athi-Kapiti plains. They disperse over the plains in the wet season and return to the park in the dry season. The concentration of wildlife in the park is greatest in the dry season, when areas outside the park have dried up. Small dams built along the Mbagathi River give the park more water resources than these outside areas. They attract water dependent herbivores during the dry season. The park is the northern limit for wildlife migrations in the dry season.The park has a high diversity of bird species, with up to 500 permanent and migratory species in the park.Dams have created a man-made habitat for birds and aquatic species.

The David Sheldrick Trust runs a sanctuary in the park that hand-rears orphaned elephant and rhinoceros calves, and later releases them back into secure sanctuaries. Orphaned and sick animals are brought to the sanctuary from all over Kenya. The sanctuary is located close to the park's main entrance. It was opened in 1963. It was set up by Daphne Sheldrick after the death of her husband David Sheldrick, the anti-poaching warden of Tsavo National Park. Nairobi National Park is sometimes called Kifaru Ark, which means "Rhinoceros Sanctuary". It is one of Kenya's most successful rhinoceros sanctuaries, and it is one of only a few parks where visitors can be certain of seeing a black rhinoceros in its natural habitat.

Conservation

.Mervyn Cowie oversaw the development of several of Kenya's national parks and designed them with human visitors in mind. This emphasis helped to make tourism Kenya's primary industry. However, it exacerbated problems between the human population and wildlife. Farmers living next to the parks did not have input into the establishment of the parks. Locals received very little benefit from the game animals. Livestock is threatened by lions, and some landowners think that Kenya's wildlife is not good for them. In 1948 188,976 people lived in Nairobi, and by 1997 the city's population had grown to 1.5 million. Currently in 2011 the population of greater nairobi is approximately 3.5 million .The park is under pressure from the city's growing population and need for farmland. People live right next to the park's boundaries, which creates human-animal conflicts. The human population also creates pollution and garbage. Effluent and industrial waste from factories located along the park's northern boundary contaminate the park's surface and ground water systems.

Treaties with the Masai in 1904 and 1911 forced them to give up all of their northern grazing lands on the Laikipia escarpment near Mount Kenya. Some of the people that lost land there were resettled in the Kitengela area. The Masai's pastoral life did not create any conflicts with the wildlife. Today the Kitengela has been divided into group ranches and some of the land has been sold to Kikuyu farmers. Houses, cultivated plots, schools, shops, and bars are found on the Kitengela plains. People living here suffer from the presence of predators. Some of the park's revenues have been used for community projects in order for the people living on the Kitengela to benefit from the presence of the national park. Many Masai landowners have formed the Kitengela Landowners Association, which works with the Kenyan Wildlife Service to both protect the wildlife and find benefits for the locals.

The park and the Athi-Kapiti Plains are linked by the migrations of wild herbivore populations. The plains to the south of the park are important feeding areas during the wet season. Before the city was established, herds of animals followed the rains and moved across the plains from Mount Kilimanjaro to Mount Kenya, a migration as great as the migration that takes place on the Serengeti. However, as the city grew the park became the northernmost limit of the animal's migration. Migrating animals can reach their southern pastures by travelling through the part of the Athi plains called the Kitengela. This land is very important to their migration routes, but growth in the human population and the accompanying need for land threaten to cut off this traditional migration route from the park to land further south. The park's migratory species are also threatened by changing settlement patterns, fencing, and their closeness to Nairobi and other industrial towns. These activities fragment their ecosystems and occupy their habitat.

Tourism and education

Nairobi National Park is the main tourist attraction for visitors to Nairobi. Visitor attractions include the park's black rhinoceros, diverse bird species, cheetah, hyena, leopard, and lion. Other attractions are the wildebeest and zebra migrations in July and August, the Ivory Burning Site Monument, and the Nairobi Safari Walk and animal orphanage. Inhabitants of Nairobi visit the park and thousands of African children on school field trips visit the park each week.

The park's Wildlife Conservation Education Centre has lectures and video shows about wildlife and guided tours of the park and animal orphanage. These tours are primarily, but not exclusively, to educate schools and local communities. There has been criticism about animals' housing, and they now have more spacious housing in a more natural environment. The Kenya Wildlife Service has created a Safari Walk that highlights the variety of plants and animals that are in Kenya, and how they affect Kenya's population.

check out some of the following on facebook or websites that are involved with the Nairobi National Park.

Kenya Wildlife Services (website: www.kws.org )
facebook search for NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK
Friends of Nairobi National Park (FONNAP) (website: www.fonnap.wordpress.com )
Nairobi Tented Camp (website: www.nairobitentedcamp.com )
Wildlife Direct (website: www.wildlifedirect.org then find blog)
Nairobi Greenline (website: www.nairobigreenline.com )
Read the Weekend Star Newspaper in Kenya - every week - NAIROBI PARK DIARY & also posted on facebook

FUTURE POSTINGS WILL FOCUS ON TOPICS LIKE - LIONS , MIGRATION CORRIDOR , NAIROBI GREENLINE , RHINO'S , CITY POLLUTION SOLUTION

#7 Game Warden

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 12:34 PM

Great information Gareth.


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#8 Soukous

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 10:23 AM

One of my favourite parks. Used to go there almost every weekend when I lived in Nairobi.

Haven't been for years, must go again.


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#9 Game Warden

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 10:28 AM

@Soukous Any photos from those times? How was the urban encroachment back then?


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#10 Soukous

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 10:37 AM

I probably have loads of them, but unfortunately they are all on 35mm transparencies and in storage - waiting for the time when I can scan them. Sorry.

 

To be honest I do not recall there being much urban encroachment back then; this was the 1980's. What I always loved about NNP was that although it is only a small park the variety of animals was terrific. Always saw lions and black rhino and during the migration there were small clusters of wildebeest too. For me it was great as it was the only time I got to visit a game park without clients.


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#11 armchair bushman

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 08:34 AM

Gareth, you're rather humble, saying you're "probably not an expert".  You have more knowledge and respect for NNP than most in Kenya.

My personal opinion of NNP is very high.  I love the varying landscapes and vegetation from the Langata Forest area, down to the rich high grasslands, and further down to the drylands at the foot of the park.  I love the gorges and valleys with their cliffs and caves and all the different flora in there.  The birdlife in the park is amazing throughout the year.  I've had many good raptor sightings there, and my love affair with birds blossomed there when I was 11 years old.

During and immediately after the rains, the insect life is throbbing.  Lots of butterflies everywhere, dung beetles, wasps etc.  

 

Early this year sometime, I went into the park, only arriving after 10am and left before 4pm.  Probably the worst time of the day for wildlife viewing.  We all know the best game drives are had early morning and late evening (after 4pm).  But on my drive, through the hottest time of the day, I saw over 110 species of birds, reptiles, arthropods, and mammals (including rhino and lion).  

 

Like any park, there are days where you come away having seen "everything", and days where you come away disappointed.  but how disappointed can you really be?  for a nominal fee, you've spent the day in a world-class wildlife park on the doorstep of East Africa's biggest capitol city.  And if you're a Kenyan citizen, you've done it all for the price of a couple of beers.

As Gareth often says on the "Friends of Nairobi National Park" (FoNNaP) FB page, Go in with the attitude that you want to see birds, and you'll find lots of mammals getting in your way (or something to that effect).


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#12 gagan

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Posted 18 May 2014 - 02:48 PM

Can you see hyena leopard and cheetah in nairobi national park? I have bees there but saw only lions as predators . Also elephants were absent

#13 Game Warden

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Posted 18 May 2014 - 03:01 PM

I saw hyena, (and heard them as well) there in Feb. Did not see leopard but many people do. Apparently just one cheetah left...


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#14 armchair bushman

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 06:21 AM

Can you see hyena leopard and cheetah in nairobi national park? I have bees there but saw only lions as predators . Also elephants were absent

Gagan, hyena and leopard are both ever-present in NNP.  There is only one cheetah that sometimes enters the park at the southern end, so cheetah sightings are rare.

 

There are also Aardwolf, Bat Eared Foxes, Black Backed Jackals, several species of mongoose, and possibly even Striped Hyena.  

 

There are certainly no elephant in the park as it is far too small to accommodate such large ecosystem engineers.  The only elephants in the park are the few orphan baby elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust HQ on the South West boundary of the park.  They walk through a small section of the forest, but you will not come across them on a game drive.  

 

A couple of years ago a few elephants did come quite close to the southern border of the park, having walked up from Amboseli or the Southern rift.  KWS kept a close eye on them to keep them away from the farms and cattle areas.  They eventually moved South again and were not disturbed.



#15 ice

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 06:42 AM

@armchair bushman

 

I have to disagree with you: during my last visit to NNP in summer 2012 we came across the elephants from the orphanage; in fact we saw our very "own" foster elephant with his guide



#16 armchair bushman

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 12:09 PM

On your game drive?  wow.  ok.  I stand corrected.  Guess you must be in the right place at the right time,



#17 ice

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 08:17 PM

yeah, on a half day game drive, started early morning and left at about 10 am







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