Category Archives: silole sanctuary

The Difference between a Suni & a Dikidik

By Will Knocker (Photos by Gareth Jones):


A dikdik (this is Kirk’s as different to Guenther’s which inhabits the arid North of Kenya) in the Park: an unusual sight although they are common in the abutting Silole Sanctuary area…..


Gareth, was this pic taken in Silole, or the Park? In game counts, Suni (see below) are often described as ‘dikdik’….

The Suni, below (from ‘esuuni’: a small antelope in Maa) is a dwarf antelope inhabiting forest areas: it is a completely different animal to the dikdik, which likes semi-arid localities….

suni in the forest

Do let me know of your sightings of these 2 species of small buck & has anyone seen a Red Forest duiker (reportedly present in Langata forest), Steinbuck or Oribi recently? The Park is a haven of course for so many species of antelope….





Browse Rhinos in NNP

By Will Knocker:


Yesterday was a super rhino day in NNP: this was the view from my breakfast room in the Silole Sanctuary on the edge of the Park.


Behind the giraffe ‘gardeners’: 4 browse rhinos on the ridge (Somali Ridge) behind…..


Then I found this lone bull a kilometer or so away……


And then this cow on the edge of the Sosian Valley….


And her calf…….


Truly awesome animals, threatened by human ignorance & greed.

Update on Leopard Research in NNP


Yesterday Yumi the leopard researcher came to look at leopard pugs behind Silole Cottage & gave me an update on the research she is doing on NNP leopards. She collared 2 leopards in order to monitor their movements.One is ‘ours’: she lives in the park & in the Silole Sanctuary abutting the park, whilst the other animal is resident in the Langata Forest in the west of the park.

Yumi was telling me about analysis of the scat (droppings) in these 2 areas of the park & the results are interesting: these leopards really are suburban, making use of the food resources inside & outside of the park. The first (Silole) leopard, which inhabits the area around the river-gorges of the Kiserian & Empakasi rivers had baboon & hyrax remains in it’s scat, along with the hairs of sheep & goats presumably stolen from Masai homesteads outside the park, whilst the second leopard, whose movements show it crosses the Magadi road into the neighbouring Mukoma Estate had bushbuck remains & domestic dog hairs in it’s scat. So now you know where your missing pet went to…….


King Of Nairobi National Park (East)


Ujonjo was the last adult male lion left in Nairobi National Park when the population of lions (historical average 30) dropped to just 7 individuals in 2005. Since then the population has bounced back to an estimated 35-40 individuals. Here he is photographed outside the Park in the Silole Sanctuary…….


He was recently observed killing a cub in the west of the park & my theory is that this was in fact the off-spring of his son (see below), who with a younger brother has established dominance over the lionesses who wander alone or in small groups there…..

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In the east of the park, Ujonjo remains the master………


Eland in Nairobi National Park

pictures Aug 2008 049

A cow eland in the Nairobi National Park, an oasis for the largest antelope in the world.

These animals are your writer’s particular favourite animals, large, beautiful, gentle & perfectly adapted to living in the vagaries of Africa’s savannah ecosystems, of which the NNP is a perfect example.

Grazing 25% of their food in the scarce wet seasons, making use of the abundant grass resource when it is available & then browsing in the dry season, or in dry areas, eland traditionally wandered over huge areas at will……


An eland bull- a truly massive animal -heavier even than a buffalo according to Kingdon-& formidable, as demonstrated by bulls’ ability to graze in long grass areas without fear of lion predation.

Generally however, the eland’s primary response to danger is to run away or jump: they are spectacular leapers able to jump over fences with effortless ease (especially the cows:bulls are a little too massive!)

We have 500 + eland in the park & I see this population rising over time as their shyness & alertness prevents them from wandering out into the fast-diminishing ‘dispersal area’ outside of the park, which is increasingly humanised by the day & where delicious eland meat is at a premium in a country where the poor cannot afford to but meat in butcheries = plenty of illegal hunting for bushmeat.

In the park they are safe…..& to successfully breed as well…..


A bull eland looks down at the writer’s cottage in the Silole Sanctuary, just outside the park.


A bull eland browsing. Not only can they make use of available plant nutrients, eland are very efficient in their use of water & can live in arid areas or exist without drinking for long periods . Compare their dry droppings to the wet pats of cattle…..


A bull & youngsters, which have an intense attraction for one another & so are found in (usually large-especially in NNP) nursery herds where they seem to communally suckle from lactating cows . ( Might an expert enlighten us on this thesis?)

Eland milk is one of the richest milks in nature (like whale milk) & young eland grow rapidly as  result.

Africa has not been innovative in using it’s wildlife eg. hippoes are the creatures which are most efficient in turning grass into meat (protein) in comparison to inefficient & resource gobbling domestic animals.  In contrast,eland have been domesticated on the steppes of Russia, where their milk is fed to the sick in local hospitals…..


Long live these elegant & beautifully adapted animals in Nairobi National Park…….

Lions in Nairobi National Park

Photographs by Rob Allen, Dave McKelvie & Will Knocker

Lions & birds (51)

Two lionesses stare at soaring vultures overhead, attracted by their kongoni kill.

I estimate between 35  & 40 lions in NNP all told, all descended from the 7 that remained in the park after the drought of 2005 when so many were killed after cattle-killing outside the park….

This is way above the historical average of 30 lions established by the lion researcher Judith Rudnai in the 70’s & a reflection of the changing conditions in NNP during a prolonged dry cycle.

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4 adult lions move along a track in the park. Social groupings appear to consist of individual lionesses & their cubs right now, with at least 4 adult males (including the dominant male Ujonjo -perhaps the father of the whole lot!!) in the competition for mating rights. Traditionally there were 2 distinct prides in the park, but we seem to be in a confused transitional period now……

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Two males investigating female urination….

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And testing to see if they are in oestrus by exhibiting flehmen (below)…..

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A portrait of a young pretender…….


With his coalition partner…..


Two lionesses watch a bull eland……


Below, three of a group of four cubs of a litter of four,ALL of whom survived during the recent drought, when food has been so plentiful in the park.

The NNP population of lions is very young, with all but 7 individuals being less than 5 years old & at least one more litter of young cubs recently observed…….notice the suburban backdrop, which sums up the area outside the park in 2010:certainly not suitable for big cats, though they regularly venture out at night…..


Below, 2 young lionesses of a group of 4, including a single young male photographed last weekend in the Athi Basin -these lions were nervous. Had they been out of the park the previous night & perhaps been chased out of a local cattle boma?


A lioness near Masai Gate, loking out over her fast diminishing kingdom outside the park.The day before this individual was observed to kill an adult male baboon in the Silole Sanctuary……


Leopards in NNP


Last week I had the pleasure of meeting up with Yumi, a zoologist from Kyoto University researching leopards in NNP, specifically looking at the conservation of these elusive cats & at interaction between leopards & people in the extraordinary periurban situation that is Nairobi National Park.


Yumi trapped & collared 2 female leopards in the park in January this year & has been trying to keep up with them through radio signals & GPS readings showing their movements since then.

One of these is probably the individual that wakes me up at night by walking on my currugated iron roof as it was trapped along the Empakasi River next to the Masai Gate below the Silole Sanctuary where I live……Yumi estimates her age as less than 3 years old, which makes her immature..

The other moves in & out of the park from the Mukoma Road Estate into the Langata Forest. This individual is also young, but appears from the examination of her teats to have had cubs…

She has positively identified at least 5 different males & estimates the entire NNP population at between 10-20. The huge margin for error is perfectly easy to understand by those of us who are lucky enough to spot a leopard in the park….


KWS report a female with 3 cubs in the Langata Forest. Females appear to share territory, whilst males are much less tolerant of intruders……


If anybody has information or sightings of leopards in NNP please let me know & I will pass on to Yumi…


A usual sighting of a leopard -a sleeping beauty almost impossible to see amongst the foliage. Leopards are mainly noctournal &  are opportunistic predators eating whatever is locally available . Not surprisingly around NNP they are very fond of eating dogs & cats including my dachshund last year…….

Photos by top cat-spotter Dave McKelvie.

Waiting…..waiting for Rain…..


Nairobi National Park is a haven for antelopes, such as these oribi, translocated in from agricultural land in western Kenya. I saw 3 today:these shy creatures can more easily be seen now that there is so little vegetation in the park…


The resident herbivores are finding it difficult in the dry, hot conditions prevailing; but not Grantis (you can see why they is called “oloibor siadi” -the ‘white behind’ in the Maasai language!) , which are very well adapted to living on the hot dessicated savannah.They can exist perfectly well without water.


The beestes are back! Almost miraculously some 1,000 of these (in our ecosystem) increasingly rare grazers have found their way back into the park. Precise numbers will be communicated in the next post as a count took place last sunday, but no details available from KWS, yet.


The gnu look good considering illegal cattle grazing has turned the entire park into short-grass plains habitat,with very little ‘short grass’. The black mob on the horizon are the herd seen in the pic above….talk about a blasted heath!


Kongoni -in decline nearly everywhere from grazing competition with cattle -are now having to contend with cattle competition in their”protected” haven in the Park.

As always in a drought, the old & the weak are in poor condition; let’s hope they get through this period (there are many young at heel) as this population of Coke’s hartebeest, which is critical in terms of the Athi Kapiti ecosystem.


The water holes are drying up…..


Another rare denizen of the park: a bush duiker -no doubt only visible because of the paucity of vegetation…..


Thirsty gnu….


Even giraffe -supremely adapted to life on the African plain- are getting hungry & wandering far & wide in search of browse -including to my garden in the Silole Sanctuary. In the Langata Forest some of their favourite food shrubs – Rus natalensis –has died owing to drought. We can only hope that the rain arrives on schedule mid-October……..

Positive Trends

As it is the intention of this blog to accentuate the positive whenever possible & to celebrate the undoubted attractions of the NNP, herewith some GOOD NEWS stories…


There used to be several thousand wildebeest in the NNP ecosystem, but after El Nino in 1997 & the wet cycle of weather following the drought of 2000, they all but disappeared in recent years, but now….they’re back, with 278 individuals counted in the park in October.It is the breeding season now & several herds of cows are in the Sheep & Goat land next to Kitengela town about to drop their calves.Once it gets dry again,the park’s short grass plains will be perfect for wildebeeste & let us hope that numbers are now on the way UP!


Here is one of the 5 adult lionesses resident in the park. One has 3 young cubs whilst there are estimated to be 13 yearlings/adolescents in the park at present.

Not good news for the wildebeest,their favourite prey…


Owing to the controlled (& uncontrolled) burns in the park last Xmas, the short grass plain habitat now covers as much as two thirds of the grassplains of the park.Whilst having voted with their hooves & moved OUT of the park in previous years (during a wet cycle), gazelles are now back in good numbers,including this fine Granti buck…..but where are the cheetahs?


This has been a terrific year for ostiches (NNP holds the densest population of wild ostrich anywhere) with many clutches of eggs having successfully hatched.As a result there are many proud parents with their broods (all varying in size & number) on the short-grass plains; a wonderful investment in the future.


Mark Stanley Price studied kongoni in the NNP in the 70’s & concluded that there were 2 populations of kongoni in the park:resident & migratory. Times have changed, however & the kongoni are now uncommon outside the park in what remains of the dispersal area.

Those that are resident appear to be flourishing, with close to 600 individuals counted in the park in October.Now, in the rains, young are to be seen in all the herds.Another great resource doing extra well in the NNP after years of decline….


NNP is an excellent place for watching antelopes of many different species:eland,wildebeeste,kongoni,waterbuck,impala,2 sp.of gazelle (Grants & Thompsons) bushbuck,steenbok,oribi, common duiker,suni & 2 sp. of reedbuck (Bohor & Mountain-see above). Curiously dikdik seem to be absent,though occur on the rocky hillsides of the Silole Sanctuary ( to the south.

Now it is wet & green, the zebra have done their usual disappearing trick into the dispersal area.But continuing dry weather & a dearth of grazing outside the park will doubtless see them back soon (those that have not been eaten.)This is all part of the trend by which the migratory species are increasingly confined to the park, including the nursery herd of eland (see below) which numbers about 100 individuals.