Category Archives: plains zebra

Incomparable NNP

By Will Knocker:

Apologies for paucity of updates recently, but am now back in the saddle…

The Park is looking amazing this year after record rains in April May & June.

Yesterday I took a turn around the Park & this is what I found:


Dawn in the Park is always the best time for me…


I found 3 lions: 2 lionesses & a male asleep after the night’s activity asleep at the bottom of the Sosian valley


A Browse rhino in it’s natural habitat..


And a separate bull at closer quarters…


A cow hippo at Athi dam (notice her calf in the water.)

Sadly she is grazing on the dreaded Parthenium weed which is taking over the area…& Nairobi.


Athi Dam: my favourite place….


A ‘tirikoko’ (Maa): a Yellow-bellied sandgrouse


There are hundreds, if not thousands of impala in the Park.

Gazelles, without any space to wander outside the Park, are also increasing in number..



Kongoni (a species in steep decline elsewhere owing to competition with cattle: this is a species evolved to living in long-grass environments) are increasing in numbers in NNP.


Amazingly well-adapted & intelligent Plains zebras are now in the Park in their thousands.

They DO go out of the Park, but it is increasingly dangerous owing to the Bushmeat trade.

Better to stay in the Park in spite of the danger from lions…


It is mating season for Masai ostriches, of which there are masses in the Park: we hope for plenty of chicks in September/October…


The Ngong Hills from the Park: this is Big Sky country..


Plenty of grazers in the ocean of grass this year: outside in the pockets of ‘dispersal area’,  once super-productiver rangelands like these have been converted into a Man-made desert….


At Eland Hollow, I came across 3 lionesses & 5 large cubs watching the lines of zebra filing into drink…


Learning to watch………and wait…..


Nairobi Before & After….


At lease there is some competition for the skyscrapers!


NNP remains an amazing & precious & incomparable wildlife area,

full of Nature’s marvellous evolved bounty.





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…..

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 !

Wildlife Flourishing in NNP

By Will Knocker:






Thirsty Herds

By Will Knocker:


It looks like the Rains have failed in Southern Kenya & the Park is getting very dry, causing the  wildebeest population (c.250 animals) to come into the Park proper from the Sheep & Goat land across the Empakasi.


 Eastern White-bearded Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus albojubatus). This is a rare sub-species of gnu which consists of less than 5000 individuals East of the Rift Valley. In this respect Nairobi National Park is a very important haven for these creatures.



Plains zebra watering at the Athi dam.


Zebra & gnu in the Athi Basin.


Gravel pits become useful water points in dry years like this.


A wet August was not great for nesting ostriches, but these guys seem to be alright. Sadly very heavy mortality  amongst young ostrich means that almost certainly these chicks will be eaten!



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…..













First Hunt







(Short)Wet Season in NNP

By Will Knocker:


The township of Kitengela lit up by the sun…..from the park.


Plains zebra; Ngong Hills behind.


A large mob of zebra were grazing the lush grass of the Empakasi floodplain.



The rangeland in the park is in excellent condition, with plenty of short-grass plain habitat & plenty of grass in reserve in the Acacia drepanalobium plains in the North of the Park, in what promises to be a dry year.


The Plain in the City.


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.


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


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


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….


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.


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?


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


We wildebeest are watching you……….