Category Archives: Eastern White Bearded Gnu

Fire in NNP

By Will Knocker:

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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…

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Plumes of smoke drifting towards Wilson Airport

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What the heck was going on?

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My daughter Lucy & I decided to investigate…

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

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

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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 ….

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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…

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

Luckily the wind had died down…

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

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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….

THE END

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…..

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…