Category Archives: Nairobi National Park

Ostriches in NNP

By Will Knocker


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.


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


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

which are fiercely guarded by the parents.


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

to escape the attentions of predators.


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:


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


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..


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.



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..


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….

Dispersal Area


By Will Knocker:


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…


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.


Brand new house & fence in this area, supposedly leased by the Wildlife Foundation as open rangeland suitable for wildlife.


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.



The area, especially in the woodland within the Park, has been taken over by the dreaded invasive weed Parthenium.


The boundary road along the edge of the Park.


The Athi Plains were rich & very biodiverse, especially in species of large grazers. These are now confined to the Park.


The Last Gnu? We’re nearly there….


A vision of the Future: urbanization & a world in which wild grazers have been replaced by cattle.


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?


This just about sums it up……


The Park boundary….


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 .




On the Athi Plains

By Will Knocker:


Is there a better place to be than on the African Plain?


On the Athi Plain in particular where grass is a super-abundant resource….


NNP & what is left (very little) of the dispersal area is home to a herd of 4000 Plains zebra…


and 18 species of Bovidae (buffalo & antelopes..)



And all this in a city of 5 million H. sapiens………WOW !


By Will Knocker:



A female bushbuck in it’s element in one of the many diverse habitats in Nairobi National Park, where it is common.




Although common (the most widespread antelope sp. in Africa) bushbuck are solitary creatures & usually difficult to spot (apart from in NNP!)



They can live easily near people, although they are widely hunted for their meat outside protected areas.




As shown here, if not persecuted, they can be very tolerant of people (this image actually from Aberdares NP)



The beautiful bushbuck is easily bayed up by pursuing dogs, but hopefully not in the protected areas of Nairobi National Park.

More info:    http: //





Wildlife Flourishing in NNP

By Will Knocker:






Clash of the Titans

By Will Knocker:


Two bull Black (Browse) rhinos go nose to massive nose on who’s territory this is…


Massive pachydems face off to determine who is the Boss…in the middle of the road…


We kept our distance….(have you ever been charged by a rhino?)


And watched in fascination  as the two protagonists got on with their confrontation…



Good old KWS had to spoil the show..



Visitors who had obviously NOT been charged by a rhino hoved in for a closer view & the rhinos, honour satisfied, trotted off back from the disputed border, back deeper into their territories….


Happy World Wildlife Day 3rd of March……..

Dreaded Parthenium Threatening Nbi Nat Park

By Will Knocker


Close-up of Parthenium weed, an invasive species rapidly encroaching on Nairobi National Park..this is in the Park, at the Athi dam… I have also seen  invasions along the Athi River -Namanga highway & along the shores of Lake Victoria.

IF YOU SEE THIS PLANT PULL IT UP, (though gloves are advisable for big infestations)


Originally from Central America, this “noxious annual herb appears to have entered the Park in water flows , as well as on the wheels & radiators & under-carriages of vehicles & earth-moving equipment.

Parthenium infestations have CAUSED THE COLLAPSE OF MANY GRASSLAND ECOSYSTEMS AROUND THE WORLD in lands as widely spread as India & Austalia.”

“The FONNAP Natural History Guide to Nairobi National Park”


“No more than half a metre tall, Parthenium releases toxic allelo-chemicals into the soil that inhibit gowth & germination of other species. Its abundant seeds are readily dispersed by the elements.  Each seed can grow within one month into a mature plant capable of producing another 25000 seeds viable for 2 years or longer…


Parthenium contains potent allergins harmful to the health of ungulates & people.”

Contact with this plant causes dermatitis and respiratory malfunction in humans,  in cattle and domestic animals, due to the presence of toxin parthenin.

“Even in mixed forage, the unpalatable leaves,” which blister the mouths of grazers,”taint the flesh & milk of grazing animals. The extent of the potential disruption to the foodchain in incalculable.”


These pictures are taken on the Magadi Road, next to the Media College bumps, but Parthenium is now established (forever…that is the reality of Invasive Species) along all of Nairobi’s new highway & bypass verges. This is within a few yards of the Park…

Thankfully, Parthenium finds it difficult to establish itself in pristine grassland, but alarmingly, it is spreading along the roads & rivers of NNP & especially in the Athi Basi with the new pylon lines. ( No thanks to KWS.)

What can be done?

‘ If the population in cultivated field is light, it should be removed manually. Otherwise it will spread very fast and the population will reach beyond control’… a situation already reached in some parts of the Park.

Last year I organised an Invasive sp. workshop at Silole Sanctuary through FONNAP: it was well attended & we told KWS we were ready to collaborate on removing this dangerous invader from the Park.

The response: nothing.

As far as I am aware there are no efforts being made to eradicate Parthenium, or any other Invasive sp. from the Park…..

More info:

New Fence at Main Gate

By Paula Kahumbu:

I was horrified today to see that KWS have started fencing off a huge piece of the Nairobi National Park for the major expansion of the Nairobi Orphanage. The fence follows the main road from the entrance all the way to the club house – which is almost to the ivory burn site.

I am writing to request that you help me to demand an immediate halt these plans. I have identified the following arguments; you may have others

1. Expanding the orphanage violates the very original purpose of the orphanage – to home orphans and act as a half way house before they are released. The orphanage was never intended as a zoo which is what it seems KWS wants to create. The Safari Walk on the other hand was created as a zoo – there is no need for two zoos in the same place in Nairobi. Moreover, wilderness in the National Park should not be sacrificed for the creation of or expansion of a zoo, instead a wholesome education experience through visitation to the park should be promoted as it is far more valuable.

2. The area for expansion will require the destruction of a sizeable piece of Nairobi Park. We are not aware of any EIA having been conducted, nor are we aware of any stakeholder consultation having taken place. As you know, FoNNaP which is 19 years old, has always defended the park and although our board meets regularly with the warden, there has been no consultation of these plans, and we have not been informed of these or any other plans for developments in the park.

3. We believe that these developments are in violation of the management plan of the park which is already out of date having expired a few years ago. It is also therefore a violation of the new Act which requires parks to have management plans that are developed through a stakeholder consultative process.

4. The area of land that is being fenced off will result in the destruction of highly endangered tropical highland forest including habitats for endangered add endangered species, as well as species of concern including lions, jackals, leopard, Crowned eagle (one of the only 2 nesting pairs in Nairobi nests in these trees), Suni, duiker, black rhino and bush pig all live in this part of the forest. I am sure there are also plants, birds and other animals that will also be threatened. By degrading this habitat and alienating it from the park the KWS will be violating the EMCA, and failure to consult the stakeholders is in violation of the constitution.

I have written to the Director KWS, NEMA Director and the CS to respectfully request the immediate halt to the ongoing fencing of the park, as it is not too late to restore any damage already caused.

I have also asked for an investigation to be initiated into how this proposal was developed and passed without any stakeholder consultation or EIA.

Please help by sending your own letter to the Cabinet Secretary, KWS Director ([email protected]) and NEMA DG on this issue so that they can see how serious this is.

A Quarter of Nairobi Park Blocked Off!


It was a grey and characteristically gloomy day, and quite cold. The
man at the gate was saying that the system was refusing to accept his
log-in and we would have to leave our Smart Cards with him, and he
scribbled a note in case we were stopped.

Let’s start with the negative issues. KWS has blocked off an entire
area in the eastern part of the Park, by ploughing a trench across all
the access roads. This means that from Hyena Dam Run-Off all the way
to Athi Basin, there is no eastern access. So no more Eland Hollow, no
more Karen Primary School Dam, no more tracks through the grassy

This is without any doubt a most  selfish &
inane move by KWS.

The message given is that they care more about
revenue than wildlife viewing. A major resource being the commuters
who speed through the Park in a hurry to get to work, most exiting at
East Gate. Up to now it has been possible to avoid this by taking
alternative routes. Now game viewers are forced to watch game solely
from this main road, and get covered by dust, and of course anything
timid scurrying for cover. Can you believe it, what idiot has not
considered the consequences?

So Nairobi National Park is now a most unpleasant place to visit until
the routes are all re-opened, and the reputation that KWS is going to
derive from expectant visiting tourists is going to be very deservedly

With the shutting off of such a large portion of the Park, which has a
considerable number of Rhinos, Lions and all the plains game, with no
visitors entering these areas, the section is an invitation for
wholesale poaching.

The message KWS has sent out is that there is something going on and
they don’t want the public to see what it is. Maybe there is no
sinister motive involved and it is just amateurish governance of the
Park by people who cannot see the long and short term effects that
their actions have caused.

No-one, including Fonnap (Friends of Nairobi National Park) was
advised of this intention, and in spite of approaches to the Warden,
no explanation has been forthcoming. They are going to lobby the
Warden, personally I think we should all be writing to the Director of

Sooooo, we visited KWS Mess Gardens, there were a couple of Suni on
the way and another there. There was a good variety of birds present,
although a slow start, including the sad Black-collared Apalis. Then
continued around to Ivory Burning Site, where there was not anything
of note.

At the Mokoyeti Bridge on the Nagolomon Dam Causeway the same Green
Sandpiper has clocked up its sixth successive week in the same spot.
The Dam itself was not quite as active as we have been used to. Nine
Long-tailed Cormorants sat in the roosting tree together with an
immature Darter and two Black-crowned Night-Herons. There were seven
Orange-breasted Waxbills feeding in the grassy verge.

Along the back road to Hyena Dam there was also not much to report,
and the dam had a single Little Grebe, the Water Rails were calling,
but the good news was that the sole surviving young Swamphen was still
with its parent. A few Wattled Starlings fed amongst a group of
Kongoni nearby. On the run-off, a Yellow-billed Egret was all we could
muster, but just as we exited to join the commuter rally on the main
road we had a frustrating series of poor views of a Buttonquail.

From here we crossed the Mokoyeti where Red-faced Cisticolas were
calling on both sides of the road, and passing the Martial Eagles
nest, where the adult was completely covering the chick, maybe it was
cold… we continued towards Maasai Gate and the southern road. We were
not seeing very much here either, the first of three Secretarybirds, a
pair of Lappet-faced Vultures on a Balanites and a White-bellied
Bustard. Heading towards Athi Dam, there was the only Wood Sandpiper
of the day on a roadside swampy area and two distant flying
Yellow-throated Sandgrouse. At Athi Dam were five Yellow-billed
Storks, the same Glossy Ibis as last week, an adult Fish Eagle, three
pairs of Spur-winged Plovers and two different birds incubating, 25
Kittlitz’s Plovers, two Little Stint, three Ruff, a Greenshank and a
Common Sandpiper. Three Black-crowned Night-Herons were roosting along
the causeway.

Towards Cheetah Gate there was a female Yellow-throated Sandgrouse,
and a d’Arnaud’s Barbet calling, plus a sprightly Wahlberg’s Honeybird
in the acacias. On the short cut at Athi Basin a pair of Spotted
Thick-knees were along the edge of the track, and at Mbuni Picnic Site
the Tawny Eagle was present with its fast changing chick.

Obviously because of KWS actions we were not able to visit Karen
Primary School Dam or Eland Hollow Dam, so who knows what was there.
We will never know if the Spur-winged Goose is going to successfully
raise the seven young unless they visit another water-body. It was
extremely boring driving all the way back to the main gate, but we
managed to do it before the commuters started scrambling madly to get

Plenty of Black-shouldered Kites were seen, but no Lesser Striped
Swallow or Quailfinch.

The plains game was largely centred along the Mbagathi, especially
Zebra, we encountered seven White and a Black Rhino, but of the
smaller fry just a Side-striped Ground-Squirrel near Baboon Cliffs.

I cannot say that the day was a success and we thoroughly enjoyed it,
it finished off miserable and tedious avoiding the traffic that had no
interest in the wildlife or consideration for the people that were
there for that reason.