Category Archives: gazelles

Short Rains Indeed….

By Will Knocker:

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The Short Rains have proved to be very short indeed in NNP, although in the last few days the Langata Forest will have greened up with some decent rain to begin December…

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Gazelles are plentiful in the park now, as it is so dry & overgazed in the Sheep & Goat land, on the short grass plains where they like to be…. what happened to these cheetahs , KWS, could you not bring them here now gazelles are so plentiful? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24953910

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 Owing to the incipient drought, hundreds of cattle are in the park day & night, displacing precious Browse rhinos from their habitat…

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The City on the Plain….

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Many sp. of mammal have given birth, expecting plenty of food from the rainy season…..how will these new youngsters fare in the challenging conditions of drought which will carry on until our next rains in April??

 

 

NNP in the Wet Season….

By Will Knocker:

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Early morning impala…

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White (or Grass) rhinos are doing well in the Park: they were introduced from Nakuru NP

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Native Black (or Browse) rhinos in their element…

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There are 40+ lions in NNP, amongst which are at least 6 adult males, all of them brothers…

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Could this be a Green-winged Pytilia?

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Four Black-backed jackals on the remains of a lion-kill in the Athi Basin…

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Spot the difference between a Tommy & Grantis…..

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There have never been so many bufffaloes in the ParK; helping to naturally manage the grasslands….

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The Park is a veritable ocean of long grass interspersed with wild flowers: absolutely beautiful…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awesome Day in the Park!

Story & pics by WILL KNOCKER:

On wednesday this week, Ed & Jeremy Hildebrand & I spent all day in the Park in superb weather & saw the best that the constantly surprising NNP has to offer….. first, these rhinos, note the bull on the right marking his territory with a horizontal blast of pee…

Early morning along the Empakasi was like a Vision of Eden…..

Then we came across this nursey herd of eland (calves suckle from any lactating female they find, an adaption to the nomadic way of life of these antelopes, who are constantly on the move.) NNP contains one of the most significant herds of eland in Kenya & the population is rising…

We definitely had a rhino day: we saw several unusual herds of Black (Browse) rhinos at close quarters….

We stopped for coffee at the Athi Dam, where zebra were watering & this kongoni posed for us. The kongoni population in NNP is exploding, bucking the trend in the rest of Kenya, where this sp. is in steep decline..

A spiral of large raptors brought us to this dramatic site: a kill…..

Ant the perpetrator, a stuffed lioness….

A pair of jackals tried to drive off the estimated 80 vultures gathered for the feast: an eland….but were ignored…..

But all soon moved off at the ‘owner’ returned to protect her kill….

There was masses of ‘plains game’ in the Athi Basin & on the top plains, where we found these zebra twins….

The Rains have not been good so far & so most biomass is in the park owing to overgrazing in the rangelands where they usually go at this time of year. The return of both Gran’ts & Thomson’s gazelles to the Park after many years of a ‘long grass’ regime is heartening. But where are the cheetah?

Ostriches under a big blue sky….

Proved to be a group with an adolescent chick: the last survivor (there is very heavy mortality amongst young ostriches…)

Then clever Ed spotted no less than six Black backed jackals: a pair of adults & four grown up cubs: great news for these little canids, which are not common in NNP…..

A bull Grass (White) rhino…..was this the individual translocated from the Mara after all his companions were killed?

As usual the Park was A1 for birds……this is a Superb starling, though we also saw the aptly named Hildebrandt’s……

And yet another bull rhino……

This was all BEFORE lunch, when we returned to Silole Cottage, where these piggies were enjoying a cooling wallow.

In the afternoon, yet more (Browse) rhinos…..

And in the Langata forest, Jeremy spotted this pair of magnificent Bateleurs, the only pair in the Park!!

And on our way home, in the distance, a new baby rhino…we couldn’t make out which type….

What a day! What a Park!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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….

Kaputiei Plains

Pics by WILL KNOCKER:

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I spent Easter at Kilima Kiu near Konza, at the south of the Athi Kapiti Ecosystem of which NNP is a part & drovev the Kapiti (properly Kaputiei) plains to get there…..

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The Kaputiei Plains, looking south west…

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Many cattle died in the drought of 2009 & sheep do well on the short grass plain (heavily grazed.) Ngong Hills in the bachground.

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Tommies, looking west.

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The brand new town of Kitengela: Kenya’s Brave New World…….

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Looking over the Park: the Empakasi river in the Athi Basin

Sheep & Goat Land

Story & pics by WILL KNOCKER:

Much effort & debate swirls around the ‘dispersal area’ of the park.

Below: the ‘real’ dispersal area for much of the park’s migratory grazers: the Sheep & Goat land.

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This is government owned land (it used to be/still is? a holding ground for livestock going to the slaughterhouse at Athi River.)

It adjoins the block of NNP which lies across the Empakasi River just downstream of the hippo pools….

It is quite large: several thousand acres & heavily grazed by Maasai livestock

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Part of NNP across the Empakasi, looking north into the park…….

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The Sheep & Goat land is VITAL for the last few gnu in NNP (once there were 100,000 (est.) in the ecosystem. They drop their calves there…..

We now have 1000 (1 % of the above) who have access to the park. The remainder are on the Kapiti plains across the Athi River/Namanga highway….

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The Sheep & Goat land is not only of ecological importance to gnus: thousands of grazers (see these current pics) use this area which is or SHOULD BE an INTEGRAL AREA of NNP.

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So what steps are being taken by KWS, FONNAP, Wildlife Foundation etc. to conserve & BIND TO THE PARK this essential area: the only true short-grass plain habitat available to gazelle sp., gnu, zebra etc?

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The debate on the ‘dispersal area’ really, urgently, needs to focus on this prime bit of habitat.

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We wildebeest are watching you……….

Gazella…grantii

BY WILL KNOCKER:

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Of 250 gazelles counted in the park in February, 74 were Grant’s Gazelles -locally known as ‘oloibor siadi’ or ‘white bums’ as this slightly out of focus pic shows ….

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Now fairly widespread over the park (the figure above is a minimum), this sp. is an indicator of short-grass plain habitat.

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Grantis are favoured prey of cheetahs- which are the only creature capable of catching these fast & agile semi-arid adapted creatures

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A buck, with no chetah to fear (only one male remains in NNP.)

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Mostly does: notice large mob of zebra below. all pics taken in the Athi Basin….

Feral Dog Problem Threatens Newborn Antelopes

Images Courtesy of SQUEAKS VAUGHAN & BRUCE SMITH:

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The beautiful & important Athi Basin (where wildlife comes in & out of the park) is sadly currently a hunting ground for feral dogs from the nearby townships of Kitengela & Athi River….

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The bitch above (who obviously has pups somewhere nearby) was nuzzling at some old bones (she was starving!) just yards away from a hidden, recently born impala calf.

Antelopes which hide their newborn young include eland, the 2 sp. of gazelle & impala & all these are threatened by feral dogs, of which we have seen packs of up to 12 individuals in the Athi Basin.

If the many predators in the area are unable to deal with these ecological pests which threaten this year’s generation of young, are KWS not able to shoot them?

And what will happen when the last few wildebeest in NNP drop their calves in March?