Author Archives: willknocker

Incomparable NNP

By Will Knocker:

Apologies for paucity of updates recently, but am now back in the saddle…

The Park is looking amazing this year after record rains in April May & June.

Yesterday I took a turn around the Park & this is what I found:

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Dawn in the Park is always the best time for me…

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I found 3 lions: 2 lionesses & a male asleep after the night’s activity asleep at the bottom of the Sosian valley

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A Browse rhino in it’s natural habitat..

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And a separate bull at closer quarters…

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A cow hippo at Athi dam (notice her calf in the water.)

Sadly she is grazing on the dreaded Parthenium weed which is taking over the area…& Nairobi.

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Athi Dam: my favourite place….

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A ‘tirikoko’ (Maa): a Yellow-bellied sandgrouse

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There are hundreds, if not thousands of impala in the Park.

Gazelles, without any space to wander outside the Park, are also increasing in number..

 

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Kongoni (a species in steep decline elsewhere owing to competition with cattle: this is a species evolved to living in long-grass environments) are increasing in numbers in NNP.

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Amazingly well-adapted & intelligent Plains zebras are now in the Park in their thousands.

They DO go out of the Park, but it is increasingly dangerous owing to the Bushmeat trade.

Better to stay in the Park in spite of the danger from lions…

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It is mating season for Masai ostriches, of which there are masses in the Park: we hope for plenty of chicks in September/October…

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The Ngong Hills from the Park: this is Big Sky country..

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Plenty of grazers in the ocean of grass this year: outside in the pockets of ‘dispersal area’,  once super-productiver rangelands like these have been converted into a Man-made desert….

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At Eland Hollow, I came across 3 lionesses & 5 large cubs watching the lines of zebra filing into drink…

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Learning to watch………and wait…..

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Nairobi Before & After….

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At lease there is some competition for the skyscrapers!

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NNP remains an amazing & precious & incomparable wildlife area,

full of Nature’s marvellous evolved bounty.

 

 

 

 

Visitor Experience at NNP

By Will Knocker:

Fifty USD is a lot of money in anybody’s book & for overseas tourists visiting the Park, the authorities (KWS) should ensure that they are getting Bang for their Buck.

Left to itself, Nairobi NationalPark cannot fail to amaze, it’s catalogue of wonders too diverse to go into here (just scroll down for more details..) and of course it is Kenya’s foremost Rhino Sanctuary and as such, deserves all the protection it can get.

BUT….is it worth sacrificing visitor experience (for it is visitors that ultimately pay the bills here) for wildlife protection & the need for round-the-clock vigilance against rhino killers?

I throw this question out there for users of the Park to debate.

As a Guide in the Park, my visitors are regularly disappointed by seeing rangers on patrol & ugly structures in the otherwise pristine Park.

As for the pylons in the Athi Basin……… that was a fait accompli…..

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What is this tent for & why is it located right next to a major crossroads in the Park?

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A rhino was spotted running away from this group of patrolling rangers…

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KWS need some lessons on Park aesthetics & what visitors pay for in a National Park (answer: wild landscapes, undisturbed wildlife & no people..)

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Not what you expect to see when entering NNP from East Gate..

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Outpost at Eland Hollow, out on the pristine African Plain….

 

Water Buffaloes

 

By Will Knocker:

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It is dry in the Park, so water-holes are at a premium …

 

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NNP in March

By Will Knocker:

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A giraffe in the Sosian Valley: King of all he surveys….

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Zebras were crossing the Empakasi river to come back into the Park

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My favourite spot: the Athi Dam

 

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Nursey herd of Easternwhite-bearded wildebeest at the Athi Dam

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Which contains (sometimes hidden) dangers

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Eland Hollow, with the city as a backdrop

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Drought Stalks NNP

By Will Knocker:

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Things are getting very dry in Nairobi National Park & several sources of water like this gravel pit are now dry: shouldn’t they be scooped out now, ready for the Rains?

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Driving into the Mokoyeti valley gives the impression of a dessicated landscape…

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The Acacia mellifera is in flower: it only does so when provoked by a dry period: food for bees & other insects…

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This is a good time for the scavengers such as these vultures: NNP is a refuge for these Masters of the Skies…not a cloud to be seen

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The large mammals such as the 150 or so Masai giraffe we have in the Park are hungry & wandering far in search of browse: they cannot go too far into the humanised world outside the Park: they are constrained…

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A victim of drought, strangely untouched by scavengers…

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Wildlife ,such as this tommy, stay close to sources of water (Empakasi river)

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The wildebeest are giving birth in this unusually dry year: will the precious calves survive? Only a few thousand of this sub-species of gnu exists: about 500 of them in NNP

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Nursery herd of Eastern white-bearded gnus

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The Plains zebra are foaling too: it’s tough for the youngsters & their lactating mothers too..

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The Athi dam is receding & a magnet for all forms of wildlife..

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Like these thirsty zebras…

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This old Grant’s gazelle will not survive this bitter season

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But in the receding dams, new life emerges: White-faced whistling duck & ducklings

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Aquatic birds like the splendid Saddle-billed stork look out of place on the dry plains…

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Whilst impalas stay in the shade at mid-day

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The dams are frequented by thirsty herds…

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And the Empakasi river flows very slowly. We all await the Life-giving Rains…..

Ostriches in NNP

By Will Knocker

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It is said that Nairobi National Park has the greatest concentration of Maasai ostriches

anywhere & certainly it is a good place to observe & photograph these enormous,

ungainly but beautiful birds.

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During the Long Rains, when there is plenty to eat, the birds get sexy & mate (see

http://nairobinationalpark.wildlifedirect.org/2014/08/29/mating-ostriches-2/)

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Chicks hatch & a pair of ostriches might have up to 30 young in their nursery flock,

which are fiercely guarded by the parents.

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Sadly ostrich chicks suffer very high mortality & only  a few at most manage

to escape the attentions of predators.

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In an Anthropecenic world, where there is very little space for ostriches

to freely breed & reproduce, aren’t we fortunate to have the Park as

an a sanctuary for ostriches, amongst many other forms of life?

Jackals in NNP

By Will Knocker:

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Black-backed jackals have not been a common sight in NNP in the last ten years.

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These delightful little wild canids were feared to have been decimated by domestic dog diseases. The Park, surrounded as it is by the city of Nairobi & it’s suburbs (containing thousands of domestic dogs), certainly does not seem a good place for these fascinating (& difficult to photograph) animals..

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But in recent years their numbers have shot up: testament to the extraordinarily large biomass in the Park, where wildlife has nowhere else to live.

 

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At one time, a few years ago the, Park was down to just one breeding female of this sp. after another was run over by a speeding visitor..

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Off they go…there were 5 in this family group, whose noctournal yelping “Kwe…Kwe…” I can hear from my home in the Silole Sanctuary just outside the Park….

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 .