Category Archives: Antelopes

The Last Gnus

By Will Knocker:

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C. t. albojubatus (Eastern White-bearded Wildebeest), of which species the IUCN says: ” However, recent population estimates suggest that the future prospect of some subpopulations or subspecies is of some concern, particularly that of the Eastern White-bearded Wildebeest (which, it seems, may have undergone a precipitous decline in numbers).”

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Hope for the future? A yearling (born March 2012)……

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This species was once one of the most numerous herbivores wandering the vast high plains of the Athi Kapiti Ecosystem of which NNP is the last remaining pristine corner: it has been estimated that there were 100,000 at the beginning of the Twentieth century.

Now: “Eastern White-bearded Wildebeest, 94,000 (with about two-thirds in and around protected areas)”, of which we in NNP have about one hundred & fifty individuals (144 counted in February game count).

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‘Our’ gnus tend to live on the rapidly dwindling Sheep & Goat Land between the park & the ever-burgeoning New Town of Kitengela south of the Park, which is heavily grazed short-grass plain habitat. The question must be: will they move into the Park once this last stronghold goes the way of the rest of the ecosystem?

The majority of the gnus in the Athi Kapiti live south of the Athi-Namanga highway, which they cannot cross to get to the Park. These will find it difficult to survive in an increasingly humanised & truncated ecosystem .

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Cows & yearlings in the Athi Basin yesterday…

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Our last few Eastern White-bearded gnus, for whom the Nairobi National Park is their last refuge…..

For more info on on-going research: http://www.nrel.colostate.edu/projects/gnu/nnp.php

The Difference between a Suni & a Dikidik

By Will Knocker (Photos by Gareth Jones):

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A dikdik (this is Kirk’s as different to Guenther’s which inhabits the arid North of Kenya) in the Park: an unusual sight although they are common in the abutting Silole Sanctuary area…..

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Gareth, was this pic taken in Silole, or the Park? In game counts, Suni (see below) are often described as ‘dikdik’….

The Suni, below (from ‘esuuni’: a small antelope in Maa) is a dwarf antelope inhabiting forest areas: it is a completely different animal to the dikdik, which likes semi-arid localities….

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Do let me know of your sightings of these 2 species of small buck & has anyone seen a Red Forest duiker (reportedly present in Langata forest), Steinbuck or Oribi recently? The Park is a haven of course for so many species of antelope….

 

A Day in the Park 17th Jan

By Will Knocker:

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I was woken up by this Variable Sunbird (male of course) fighting with himself in my bedroom window…..

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And at Main Gate, my guest Jess & I got caught up in the early morning circus: 2 male lions rubbing themselves in a buffalo pat!

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The 2 males: looking thin: c’mon guys, you are supposed to be Super Predators & the Park is full of Prey!

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A Blacksmith plover….

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Kanga……Guinea-fowl have done well this year, with many grown chicks evident….

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Chandler’s Mountain reedbuck in the Sosian valley….

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A Yellowneck spurfowl with a runny beak….

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And 2 African spoonbills………spoooning…….

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Athi Dam megacroc getting some dirty looks…..

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Lone bushbuck……(called Abu Naba in Arabic…any Arabic speakers out there?)

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As Jess said “wall-to-wall” zebras in the Athi Basin, where wildlike is concentrated at present….

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Upupa epops, the African hoopoe…what a lovely bird!

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And to end a splendid day in the incomparable NNP: a monitor lizard at Nangolomon Dam (it should be Narok Omom): “Black Head” in Maa, referring to the Langata forest…..

 

Gentle Giant

By Will Knocker:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Bushbuck

By Will Knocker:

 

 

The Herds are Back…

By Will Knocker:

After months of greenery & long grass, the Park has turned tawny & the migratory herds are back: eland do not go far: across the Empakasi into the Sheep & Goat land. This is one of Kenya’s significant populations..

The NNP kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest) population is a conundrum: it used to consist of 2 populations, resident & migratory. As the migratory population has been confined to the Park (the remaining dispersal area is short grass plain-unsuitable for this sp. which is adapted to long grass areas) the population has shot up, in spite of record numbers of lions, for whom kongoni are a favourite prey sp.  …

The Plains zebra are back! In a year of good rain such as this, our population of up to 4000 roam as far as they can in the remaining dispersal areas. However it seems that even these remarkably adaptive creatures, able to deal with the suburban conditions (fences, people, dogs) outside the park have had to overcome their fears about lions & have come back in small family groups & some bigger migratory mobs consisting of hundreds of animals…the lions will be happy!

Up until the turn of the century, such sights would have included thousands of wildebeeste, but alas the last few hundred like the short grass plain of the Sheep & Goat land & only venture into the park if pressed by drought conditions….

NNP remains the last pristine corner of the Athi Kapiti Ecosystem, now a truncated shadow of what it once was. It is so encouraging to see the herds of migratory species come back to the park safe & sound after the Rains…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eland in NNP

By Will Knocker:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NNP Dispersal Area

Photos & Story by Will Knocker:

The dispersal area for nairobi National Park is being severely overgrazed by livestock, partly due to rangeland loss to developments.

The dispersal area is severely overgrazed by livestock, partly owing to rangeland loss to development.

The Last Wildebeest? The Athi-Kapiti Ecosystem, of which the Park & dispersal area are the northern park, was once one of the world’s richest grassland ecosystems: it is estimated to provide a home for 100,000 wildebeest. We counted 2 bulls out on the plains at Sholingei..

Looking east down the Kitengela river valley; a major ‘mlango’ for wilflife to move to Top Plains at Sholingei; this is a humanised landscape not suitable even for passage by large grazers.

Heliotrope flowers in bloom where grass no longer grows….

Roads gouged out of the good earth by the stone trucks serving the quarries that take up the river valleys in the dispersal area, ceaselessly removing tons of blocks of stone with which to build the city of Nairobi & particularly the fast growing dormitory towns of Ongata Rongai & Kitengela (in picture.)

“Community Land”? This is government land: the old livestock holding ground for Athi River. It is now used for grazing by local herders, but permanent settlements there (of which there are quite a few) are illegal. At least the herders stop the area from being built over by the fast-growing Kitengela township…….& pastoralism is of course very compatible with wildlife as far as land-use is concerned.

When the park lions venture onto the ‘Sheep & Goat Land’ as this essential bit of the dispersal area is called, it is a very different story: if they kill livestock, there is a major conflict of interest & they will be killed in retribution……

New (built last year) temporary (there is no one living there now) homestead designed to hold livestock to illegally graze in the park during dry spells.

Giraffe in the block of the Park across the Empakasi, adjacent to Sheep & Goat Land

The breeding herd of eland across the river: the instincts of this highly migratory species tell them to move out of the Park; but they have nowhere to go…….

If we do not take the Sheep & Goat land seriously, we might lose the last few gnu we have in NNP…..

The amazing Athi Basin, where all “the migrants” go to after rain…..thankfully, sp. such as kongoni now stay in the Park & their population is increasing by leaps & bounds: elsewhere in Africa, all hartebeest are in steep decline wherever there are cattle (with whom they compete) & therefore overgrazed rangelands, which is not hartebeest habitat…

The dispersal area across the river is vital to NNP & ESPECIALLY TO WILDEBEEST: this is where they live & calve…..

Suburban wildebeest: the pressure is on for this species, both in the Park & in the rest of the Athi-Kapiti Ecosystem…..(remember there used to be 100,000…….!!!!)

The Dispersal Area is riddled with quarries & the air filled with the blasting of dynamite…..the plains of the Athi-Kapiti are , below a miniscule layer of earth, are in fact solid rock!

Tuala, a typical frontier town where land speculation is the main activity: the plains of the Dispersal Area is being rapidly parcelled out: townships & suburban areas will completely encircle the Park within, I would estimate, 10 years…..

For reference:http://nairobinationalpark.wildlifedirect.org/2011/04/12/sheep-goat-land/

One idea: if a part of the northern bit of the Park is to be excised to make way for the Southern Bypass, as seems likely, can the authorities not look to formalise the Sheep & Goat Land as an integral part of NNP, forever??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NNP Wet Season

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The Rains this year have been ok, if not dramatically good…….

The waterfall on the Mokoyeti River….

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Water gets the cycle of life going at a goodly rate: fungus breaking down black rhino dung…..

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An unlikely Wet Season Club at Hyena Dam…

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The Spotted Thick Knees are breeding……

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Grantis in the Mood…..

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But some of the dams still need water…..

I flew over the ‘Dispersal Area’ today….it looks more like a suburb of Nairobi than a wildlife area….

The Nursery Herd

This is the third post on the same theme: new young in NNP. Nothing is as heartening as to observe new forms of life, in whichever ecosystem……

NNP contains one of the largest populations of eland in Kenya.

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Young eland show an intense attraction for each other & form nursery herds after the initial lying up period soon after they are born, when they hide. Very rich milk ensures rapid growth & young eland appear to suckle from any lactating female at this stage…

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They are very vulnerable now & mortality is high (eg from the feral dog packs at Athi River…..)

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Lactating cow on the alert: eland have great sight & hearing & are usually very hard to approach.

As with most sp. in NNP, they have become habituated to vehicles..

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Eland used to migrate out of the Park & they still go ‘out’ to the Sheep & Goat Land, but there is too much human activity in the remaining dispersal area & so they now stay in the Park throughout the year. I think one can expect their numbers to go up (count the numbers of calves in these pictures…) as has been the case with Hartebeest, in steep decline elsewhere owing to competition with livestock (lack of habitat.)

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Sometimes suckling can be TOO much of a good thing…..

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Another  (different) herd in the Eland Hollow valley……this sp. is doing WELL in NNP!