Great Gnews from NNP

Pictures by Alexandra Spyratos:

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This is an Eastern White Bearded wildebeest, of which there are once estimated to have been 100,000 in the Athi-Kapiti Ecosystem of which Nairobi National Park is a part…

According to http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/5229/0

there were still 90,000 or so of this Kenyan sub-species of gnu in existence in the late 1990′s.

However, estimates of Eastern White-bearded Wildebeest indicate a steep decline in the subspecies’ populations to a current level of perhaps 6,000-8,000 animals. Apart from NNP, the other haven for this sub-species is the Shompole Conservancy.

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For many years now, there have been about  250 individuals in the Park & the fast-dwindling dispersal area to the South.

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It has been a dry year in Kajiado generally & especially in the  intensively grazed Sheep & Goat Land which these short-grass plain grazers like & many wildebeest have moved into the Park  with the rain of recent days.

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The fantastic news is that the photographer & I counted 450 individuals, many of them young yearlings: the NNP population is INCREASING & will continue to do so in the future given the massive grazing pressure on the Park  nowadays: gone are the days when one had to consider burning the Park to manage the grazing: innumerable buffaloes, zebra, kongoni & cattle are seeing to that: the days of grass as a super-abundant resource are well & truly over…

 

Mating Ostriches

By Will Knocker:

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Let’s Dance….

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Yee Hah!

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Give it to me Baby…..

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The male’s massive cloaca…

 

Dispersal Area

 

By Will Knocker:

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For many years now, folks concerned with Nairobi National Park & it’s future have discussed the “migration” of wildlife in & out of the Park through “corridors” to a “conservation area” somewhere in the Kitengela. The fact is that NNP is now, to all intents & purposes, surrounded by the city & my purpose in this photo-essay is to show that this is the sad truth…

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The only area unfenced along the Southern boundary of the Park is in the Athi Basin, west of Athi River town, where a Block of the Park exists in fact ACROSS the Empakasi river. This Block adjoins an area called the Sheep & Goat land which is supposedly government land but is in fact occupied & grazed by the local Maasai.

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Brand new house & fence in this area, supposedly leased by the Wildlife Foundation as open rangeland suitable for wildlife.

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This area is vital for the Park’s population of Eastern White-Bearded wildebeest, of which about 250 individuals exist in the Park from an estimated population of 100,000 in the Athi Kapiti ecosystem a hundred years ago…. they give birth to their calves outside the Park.

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The area, especially in the woodland within the Park, has been taken over by the dreaded invasive weed Parthenium.

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The boundary road along the edge of the Park.

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The Athi Plains were rich & very biodiverse, especially in species of large grazers. These are now confined to the Park.

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The Last Gnu? We’re nearly there….

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A vision of the Future: urbanization & a world in which wild grazers have been replaced by cattle.

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The Sheep & Goat Land today (all that is left of the ‘Dispersal Area’): homesteads, roads, ploughed areas, livestock, people, dogs,boda-bodas….is this really suitable for wildlife?

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This just about sums it up……

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The Park boundary….

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This image shows the extraordinary richness of the grasslands of the Athi-Kapiti ecosystem, if it were protected, as this is, by fencing, paradoxically death to the population of wild grazers which once made this area a second Serengeti.

The parcelling out of the plains continues apace: you can buy yours by looking for ‘Kitengela Plots for Sale’ in your paper today.

Luckily, we still have the whole 120 square kilometres of the Park without people, livestock  or fences as a last refuge .

 

 

 

Waterbuck in NNP

 

By Will Knocker:

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Common  waterbuck in Nairobi National Park: not a numerous species in what is a predominantly savannah park…

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There are two separate populations in the park: in the Athi Basin & to the West, in the Langata Forest.

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The latter population (in the Langata Forest, which is ideal habitat) is definitely increasing: could this be because lions prefer the grasslands of the Athi Basin, where there are more prey animals (including waterbuck?)

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A fine male….

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Nairobi National Park boasts no less than 16 sp. of antelope: what a refuge for these beautiful ungulates.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterbuck

 

 

Vultures: Eurasian Griffon in NNP ?

By Adam Scott Kennedy:

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These vultures were at the murram pits at the top of the Athi Basin…

 

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Brian Finch poses the question: is this an immature Eurasian Griffon or one of our African Ruppell’s?

 

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Simon Thomsett or Munir Virani, any ID guesses?

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Thank goodness NNP remains an oasis for vultures of many species…..

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On the Athi Plains

By Will Knocker:

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Is there a better place to be than on the African Plain?

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On the Athi Plain in particular where grass is a super-abundant resource….

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NNP & what is left (very little) of the dispersal area is home to a herd of 4000 Plains zebra…

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and 18 species of Bovidae (buffalo & antelopes..)

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And all this in a city of 5 million H. sapiens………WOW !

Nairobi Buff

By Will Knocker:

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Buffalo are doing very well in the Park, increasing in numbers over time. 314 were counted in April, but there are probably more in these pictures than this number indicates…

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NNP is perfect habitat for buffaloes, containing plenty of water & grazing as it does, although by the time the Park was founded in 1946 there were none: they had all been shot. So the present population are all immigrants!

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In the abscence of zootic disease (& this will become more of a risk in the future as wildlife is confined strictly to the Park area & numbers increase) & droughts, buffalo numbers should impact positively on the quality of grazing in the Park, where grass in a normal year of rain is in super-abundance…

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One of the charms of visiting the Park is to find one of the big herds (of which there are several) & to ‘commune’ with these wild cattle as they go about their business from the safety of one’s vehicle, which they usually ignore. To watch the social interactions, especially amongst the massive bulls, is to appreciate the principles of bovine society  & mating rights, which go to the the biggest, baddest males…..

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As buffaloes have been extirpated through much of Africa through hunting, it is a real privilege to watch these massive, gentle grazers going about their business, peacefully in the wild….

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Part of another herd in the middle of the city, on the plains below the Ngong Hills: NNP is truly a national treasure.

Hoopoe & Frog

By Adam Scott Kennedy:

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Treacherous Croc

By Will Knocker:

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Marabous all of a twitter…”isn’t that one of us in his mouth” ?

 

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Sure looks like it….

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“Ooo-err…it’s Fred !”

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Plenty more where that came from…..

 

 

 

Bushbuck

By Will Knocker:

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A female bushbuck in it’s element in one of the many diverse habitats in Nairobi National Park, where it is common.

 

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Although common (the most widespread antelope sp. in Africa) bushbuck are solitary creatures & usually difficult to spot (apart from in NNP!)

 

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They can live easily near people, although they are widely hunted for their meat outside protected areas.

 

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As shown here, if not persecuted, they can be very tolerant of people (this image actually from Aberdares NP)

 

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The beautiful bushbuck is easily bayed up by pursuing dogs, but hopefully not in the protected areas of Nairobi National Park.

More info:    http: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushbuck