Recent pics of the few wildebeest currently in the park…..
The Last Wildebeest? Gnu are true creatures of the plains, having evolved in the great plains of Africa.
Certainly they have not adapted well to changes in habitat around NNP: fences, human activity, meat-hunting & so on.
It is estimated there could have been at least 100,000 of this sp. in the Athi Kapiti ecosystem, but we are down to the last 500 in NNP: the rest are cut off by the Athi-Namanga Highway….
Gnu on the move. Scientists have been studying how & where they move in the NNP dispersal area:
What seems to be very clear is that our last few gnu spend most of their time centred on the Sheep & Goat Land (see previous posts in the category menu to the left…..
Gnu at the Athi Dam.
Surely it must be a priority to look very closely at how to integrate the Sheep & Goat Land more securely to the Park.
Or else we will lose the last of these peculiar but wonderful creatures in one of their main habitats……
4 browse rhinos in the Athi Basin…..
And 2 more on the hill above….
3 pairs of cows & their large calves, I think………
Pics by WILL KNOCKER:
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…..
The Kaputiei Plains, looking south west…
Many cattle died in the drought of 2009 & sheep do well on the short grass plain (heavily grazed.) Ngong Hills in the bachground.
Tommies, looking west.
The brand new town of Kitengela: Kenya’s Brave New World…….
Looking over the Park: the Empakasi river in the Athi Basin
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….
By WILL KNOCKER (who has a new camera):
In NNP we’ve had 100 mm (4 inches) of rain in the last couple of weeks & the Park is looking beautiful…….as usual, at the first sign of rain the grazers head straight out of the park…..
Below, landscape & sky…..
The last ‘corridor’ remaining out of the Park is in the east of the Park in the glorious Athi Basin, where wildlife is now concentrated. (I shall post on the crossing shortly.)
My favourites-eland (which means moose in Dutch!!) with abundant young.
Zebra, kongoni & eland, as well as the gazelle sp. drop their young beginning December….
There are plenty of giraffe in NNP- 68 in the February count -definitely a MINIMUM number…
A solitary gnu in the park, Athi Basin in the background…
And gnu calves & cows on the Sheep & Goat land just outside (but contiguous with) the park. Notice what is behind -to the south -the daily expanding township of Kitengela…..
Buffalo at the Athi Dam, (247 counted in Feb Game Count.) I’m sure there are many more than this……
An Athi River mammal eater with his friends (White faced whistling duck)
NNP surely remains one of the best places in the wild to view Browse rhinos: here are 6 of them in the Athi Basin.
Images Courtesy of SQUEAKS VAUGHAN & BRUCE SMITH:
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….
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?
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……
Eland are the largest sp. of African antelope: huge, gentle, versatile (they both graze & browse, depending on what is seasonally available.)
We have about 500 of these superb antelopes in Nairobi National Park.
In the past, they spent wet seasons in the dispersal area: in the Kitengela Conservation Area (so called) south of the park.
Despite the best efforts of the US based Wildlife Foundation to lease land in the dispersal area, much of it is no longer suitable for wildlife (except for the incredibly adaptable Plains zebra.)
At any rate this shy sp., intolerant of noise & other human encroachment on it’s historical range, has voted with it’s hooves.
Apart from on the Sheep & Goat land immediately adjacent to the Athi Basin, eland are now confined to the park.
Thank goodness that this haven for the wildlife of the truncated Athi Kapiti Ecosysten exists…..
Can you imagine the African savannah without this huge, majestic creature?
In most other African countries, it has been extirpated……..