Category Archives: Eastern White Bearded Gnu

Fire in NNP

By Will Knocker:


A couple of weeks ago at the height of the drought I could see a huge fire in the Park from my home in the Silole Sanctuary…


Plumes of smoke drifting towards Wilson Airport


What the heck was going on?


My daughter Lucy & I decided to investigate…


Driving into the Park we could see that the plains above Olomanyi Dam were on fire..


Fire is scarey & one could only imagine what was happening in the several thousand acres of grassland now ablaze..


But fire is an absolute feature of the savannah & some of the grassland areas of the Park could do with a Controlled Burn to remove the tall, rank, inedible grass ….


A large part of the plains below the Langata forest (Narok Omom, meaning Black Head in Maa: mangled into the ‘Nangolomon’ known today) was burnt…


KWS were backburning & controlling the blaze on the verges of the tracks, which acted as windbreaks.

Luckily the wind had died down…


Within a few days, hungry zebra made thin by the recent drought, were in the Burn area, grazing on the fresh green shoots…


Within a few weeks & a downpour of rain from one of the localised storms which has been the norm so far these Short Rains & there were hundreds zebra, kongoni & gnus enjoying the new growth of grass, free from predators, on the clean short-grass plain….


Drought Stalks NNP

By Will Knocker:


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?


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


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


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


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…


A victim of drought, strangely untouched by scavengers…


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


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


Nursery herd of Eastern white-bearded gnus


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


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


Like these thirsty zebras…


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


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…


Whilst impalas stay in the shade at mid-day


The dams are frequented by thirsty herds…


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

Great Gnews from NNP

Pictures by Alexandra Spyratos:


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

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.


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…