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……….
BY WILL KNOCKER:
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 ….
Now fairly widespread over the park (the figure above is a minimum), this sp. is an indicator of short-grass plain habitat.
Grantis are favoured prey of cheetahs- which are the only creature capable of catching these fast & agile semi-arid adapted creatures
A buck, with no chetah to fear (only one male remains in NNP.)
Mostly does: notice large mob of zebra below. all pics taken in the Athi Basin….
By WILL KNOCKER:
The only way OUT of NNP is in the east of the park, near Athi River where it abuts the Sheep & Goat land, several thousand acres of short grass plain much loved by the remaining wildebeest. After heavy rain the grazers immediately ‘vote with their hooves’ & begin to move out towards the dispersal area outside the park.
Here a herd of zebra is about to cross the Empakasi River & out to the plains beyond.
On their way…..
Safely crossed to the other bank….
View of ‘The Promised Land’ on the other side of the river….
Photos courtesy of SQUEAKS VAUGHAN:
It is hot & dry in the park: hot enough for the last wildebeest in the park & dispersal area to begin to wander into the Athi Basin.
The gnu (it is estimated there were once 100,000 of them in the Athi Kapiti Ecosystem) are down to 1,000 (1% of what once was -counted in NNP in 2009) & they usually stay well out of the Park in the Sheep & Goat Land adjacent to Kitengela town.
We saw about 150 in the Park. Will they breed inside the park this year??
Notice the “Dispersal Area” in the background: increasingly unsuitable for wildlife, though nearly all the zebra (4000 or so) go out in the wet season….this area is also a stronghold for gazelles……..
Last year’s calves: now yearlings……
Photos by DAVE McKELVIE:
Thanks to our resident lion tracker Dave McKelvie, here are some charming (& encouraging) images of newborn lion cubs in the park.
Sadly the general public are never told when lions are ‘lost’ ; that is are killed or wander out of the Park never to be seen again (presumed killed) but we do get reports now & then about wayward lions such as Gammyleg (a well known local lioness) killed by a vehicle on the Magadi Road on the western side of the Park…….
As far as I know only 1 (lioness) remains of her family of 4 (she & 3 adult cubs)…….
We do know there are no less than FIVE adult males in the park at the moment: there are some interesting social dynamics going on (all these lions are related!)
In these circumstances, new cubs are a real bonus & hope for the future & I would say that these little ones bring the park lion estimated total up to 30-35 individuals & they have plenty to eat in the current dry conditions, with much wildlife (especially plains zebra) in the park……
As the Park continues to (rapidly) dry out, water is becoming an issue….
Wildlife is still filtering in from the Park from the dry & overgrazed dispersal area to the south .
The first water point they reach when they get here is the Athi Dam….
Plains zebras like to get RIGHT IN THERE to drink, not knowing that in the water are large mammal eating crocs…
Above, croc with victim
Below, satisfied saurian
Story & pics by WILL KNOCKER:
Last sunday I went into the park for my customary’ blog-hunt’ & came across the huge gravel pit that has been dug by the roadbuilders improving the tracks above the Athi Basin.
A large herd of buffaloes had meandered up from the Athi River to the plains above.
They were having a whale of a time….
A family of Crowned cranes were using this new wetland area to forage for food… Brian Finch the birder has just identified his 539th sp. of bird in the park, showing how extraordinarily rich (& unspoilt by man) NNP habitats are……
Cranes or ‘kongoyings’ as they are known in my family, have bred well this year in the first 6 month period of good rain: it now seems set to get drier….
Here comes a black rhino: a male (females nearly always have calves for company….)
Zebras join the melee……
Whilst the rhino hangs out with buffalo chums…..timeless scenes on the African plain…….
Your writer was taught ‘safari’ by his mother, now 85, who stopped by for a run in the Nairobi National Park last saturday on her way to Tanzania……
First we came across Ujonjo at the top of the Mokoyeti valley
He proceeded to bellow -the first time that Ma had seen a lion roaring
Down the road we met a second male, whom I believe to be Ujonjo’s son…here he is listening to Ujonjo roaring whereupon he responded with his own full-bodied bellow, which echoed up & down the valley. Truly awesome, to use an over-used word…..
‘Son of Ujonjo’ -any names out there? -in the Mokoyeti valley
We then moved to the Athi Basin & the Athi Dam, magical in the early morning light.
Herds of zebra & gnu were coming to drink along with noisy Yellow throated sandgrouse making their distinctive ‘tirikoko’ calls: which is why the Maasai call them……..tirikoko…….
Black backed jackals are uncommon in the park (one of the few females was recently killed by a speeding vehicle) so it was more Ma’s Luck to find this pair: these animals pairs for life……
Next up was the splendid sight of thousands of zebra in the valley between Eland Hollow & the East Gate junction, along with masses of other plains sp. -see in the background below
And these 5 White rhinos…..
Last of all, we found yet another maned lion, this one consorting with a lioness close to the milling herds near Eland Hollow.
What a day! What a park!