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The Last Cheetah and other unusual sightings…

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As far as I can judge, this is our last cheetah in NNP. I have seen him on & off for several years now:alone.

Even if she is a female, she has not had cubs all this time,presumably because of the lack of a mate.

All is not lost, though -NNP is now prime cheetah habitat-short grass plain-with plenty of gazelles & other mediun sized mammals available as prey. The story of the gnus -see below -must give us hope!

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I hope you like this shot of yellow-billed oxpeckers (tickbirds) at home…….

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NNP is full of wind-blown litter from the city.This graphically illustrates the risk to grazers……

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Warthog are doing just fine & their numbers going up & up….

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Competition with the cattle still in the park (though less than in previous months;many have died) is leading to stress. This poor old zebra mare, like many other old & diseased individuals will not survive.

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NNP is astonishing in the diversity of it’s mammals, such as these Mountain reedbuck. Can a geneticist amongst our readers explain how our population of  just 20 or so of this sp. has survived quite happily since the ’60’s without outside blood/genes?

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The wildebeest are back. We have a population of approximately 900 now resident in the park:an excellent core population for the 120 square kilometres where thay are likely to have to live in the future….

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A translocated oribi. Many sp. of mammals to be found in the NNP have been brought in from areas where they or their habitat are threatened….

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You never know what you might see in the splendid Nairobi National Park: a wild leopard tortoise……

Apologies to NNP blog readers!

Please forgive me y’all, as I only today realised that it is up to me to clear the comments you kindly post on this blog.

The reason your informative responses have not appeared is because of techno ignorance on my part for which many apologies!!

So keep those responses flowing & thanks for reading & taking the time to comment about Our Super Fantastic & Unique Nairobi National Park!!!!

Numbers & Commentary on Game Count…..

KWS organised  game count in NNP on 4th October. Do bear in mind that these numbers are MINIMUMS!

Herewith are the results (scrubbed by a faulty internet commection yesterday…)

Buffalo -250. I think this is well under half of the number of buff we have in NNP.

Bushbuck -16. Ditto -bushbuck are common in the park, especially in the Langata forest.

Dikdik -3. I wonder where these were counted as I’ve never seen one IN the park.In the Silole Sanctuary we have several pairs (just outside the park!)

Eland -45.There are many more eland than this in NNP, with a breeding herd of cows & calves which must number close to 100 individuals!

Grant’s gazelle -58. These gazelle are slowly  coming back to the park after many years. But where is their main predator -the cheetah?

Thompson’s gazelle -116. As above. Now that much of the NNP is a short grass plain habitat, this sp. should do well!

Masai giraffe -120. Difficult to miss these huge animals!

Coke’s hartebeest (kongoni) -377. Kongoni ar doing well in the park BUT as outside the park, where they are in major decline owing to competition with cattle, illegal grazing by cattle in NNP threatens this last population on the Athi Plains….

Reedbuck -3. KWS mean Bohor reedbuck in this case, currently easily visible thanks to illegal grazing which has led to the denudation of vegetation in the park. We also have 10-20 Chandler’s Mountain reedbuck in the park, which occur on either side of the Sosian Gorge….

Suni (dwarf antelope) -2. This sp. is common in the Langata forest.

Waterbuck -9. This sp.has been badly hit by the drought…..

Wildebeest -517. This is a respectable number, but in the last count there were 900 or so. Where are the missing 400? Owing to the onset of the Rains,this sp. is currently on the move out of the park, but TO WHERE?????

Warthog -32.In the nineties this sp. suffered major declines from rinderpest & then from pressure from lion predation, but are now bouncing back!

Impala -269. A resilient & adaptable species.

Black rhino -5. I estimate 35 of this sp. in the park, KWS 65. We also have 11 White rhinoes.

Plains zebra -2103. A respectable number but we know we have at least 3,000 zebra in & around NNP (from previous counts).

Baboon -78.

Vervet monkey-90. We also have Sykes monkeys in the Langata forest & Greater galagoes too.

African hare -1. A noctournal species.

Rock hyrax -1.

Spotted hyena -3. This sp. has dome very well in the dought with the plethora of carcasses on the plains & in the park:mostly cattle……

Silver backed jackal -9. This is a FANTASTIC number as jackal numbers got very low in the last few years. Let’s hope this sp. will build up it’s numbers!

Lion -2. Of an estimated 25-30 lions in NNP in total.

Slender mongoose -1. This is the commonest sp. in the park though we also have White-tailed mongooses & Ichneumons in the park.

Crocodile-3. The 3 beasts often seen at Athi Dam appear to have migrated to the Athi/Empakasi river owing to the drought…..

Ostrich -107. NNP is reputed to harbour the densest wild population anywhere!

Kori bustard -4. These birds have come into the NNP from the Kapiti Plains now it offers short grass plain habitat. Let us hope they breed this year!

This morning I saw an aardwolf in the park…….

Not counted were the hundreds of illegal livestock in the park which have changed the habitat so dramatically in the last few years………….

Game Count 4th October

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Baby White Rhino Born….

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Yesterday in the park driving home, kids & I came across these 3 lionesses stalking zebra….

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Then we came aross this rhino -white, because she’s grazing -& on closer inspection noticed she had a tiny calf nearby……

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Astonishingly tough, these creatures, as this cow was translocated into NNP barely 2 months ago……..thank goodness they both survived!

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Handsome little chap…..or is it a she??

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How can something so tiny grow into something so large?

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Magnificent creatures, rhinos, & lucky for them they have the 117 sq km of NNP to ‘be’ in…..

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And the park is greening up a little after rain -GRASS for them rhinos!

Lions & buffalo

Pictures & story by Gareth Jones & Rob Allen, Nairobi Park stalwarts! Thanks guys!

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There might be a second pride of lions in formation in Nairobi National Park at the moment & here is the chancer – a young lion often bullied in the past by the dominant male Ujonjo. Could these 4 lionesses be Gammyleg & (now adult) cubs?

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So he gets his chance to mate…..the lions (estimated 25-30) in the park are doing well with the plethora of food -dead cattle & all the grazers in the wider ecosystem all in the park right now owing to the drought…..

Notice the grazing buffalo in the background.

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Our male takes on a cow buffalo, who according to Rob who took these pics was very weak. Several buffalo have been reported dead in the last week. Could a nasty bacteria or virus have been introduced o the park by the hundreds of grazing cattle which are in the park every day?

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The kill -Rob says “they danced around til he got the drop….”

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It is actually a good thing for the NNP lions to learn how to take on buffalo, given that both populations of lions & buffaloes are growing at a fast rate. In the past very few buffalo have been brought down by the lions……

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Well deserved meal…..

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His posture tells it all………

STILL no rain…..

Firstly an apology for a minor disaster occurred when the magic box rubbed out the images from my camera especially taken for YOU dear reader this last weekend…

You’ll have to put up with images from the archives & my random thoughts instead….

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This image -a recent gigantic wedding -sums up the KWS attitude to the protected areas under it’s remit, by law, to protect & preserve for the future Kenya’s priceless natural treasures. Recent policy seems to concentrate on business strategems such as ‘rebranding’, issuing new smartcards that do not work outside NNP & issuing press briefings talking of ‘world class parks’.

The reality is that the fence around the park is obsolete & is broken into regularly by folks on the city side & is obvously not electrified & the park is covered with unsightly litter.

So what happened to park management & why were there hundreds of cattle in the park on sunday (a prime day for visitors, many of whom fork out 40$ to KWS to enter the park…)? Where is all the revenue going? To pen-pushers sitting on their computers in KWS HQ thinking of how to bolster revenues whilst Kenya’s protected areas struggle to survive……

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THIS is who KWS should be thinking of…..recent calculations extapolated from Kenya’s income from tourism (divided by the number of lions estimated to exist in the country) show that each wild lion could be worth a million bucks as assets to lure in tourists rightly fascinated by big cats…….

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Nairobi National Park is a birder’s mecca, with wetland & savannah & forest species to be found within it’s humanless borders. These are our only sp. of sandgrouse – the yellow throated, common on the Athi/Kapiti plains….

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The wildebeest are back. Nearly a thousand of them are in the park right now.

There were once an estimated 100,000 of this species in our ecosystem.

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The park does not look like this anymore……all the grass (too much of it for many years) is but a memory. The drought, cattle invasion & the forcing of all the wild herbivores into the park from the rapidly humanising plains outside Nairobi mean that the grasslands of the park are now ‘short grass plains’ & likely to remain so with grazing pressure from resident grazers & illegal cattle which KWS are unable or unwilling to control.

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Athi River & Kitengela are 2 of the fastest growing urban/industrial centres in Kenya & they are immediately adjacent to the park & it’s dispersal area, an area of quarries, fences, piecemeal buiding & people hungry for meat…..

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Paradoxically there are still hundreds of gazelles in the Sheep & Goat Area next to Kitengela township. They should move into the park now that it is suitable short grass habitat.

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Thre are currently 3,000 + zebra in the park. Notice Kitengela town on the horizon.

Our remaining wildlife is rapidly becoming confined to the park area itself & it behoves KWS to take their management responsibilities in this time of very rapid change much more seriously .

Zebra Influx

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Plains zebra are the commonest grazers in the Nairobi National Park: we’ve got over 3,000 of them, which is a surprisingly large number given that the range available is adjacent to a city of 5m people & comprises not much more than 200 sq kilometres.

Tales of meat poaching are rampant & if these are to be believed, then zebra would be a major target for illegal hunters. As it is, numbers are holding up well & this year, at the end of a very dry period for the ecosystem, the only grass bank is within the boundaries of the park, which is besieged by hungry cattle.

Thankfully as the following pictures show, grass availability in the park is widespread for the grazers (both wild & domestic) but will it be enough until Rains come in October?

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Here’s a zebra with unusual markings: a patch of spots on her back. Each zebra has a unique pattern of stripes, like human fingerprints….

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With cattle having come into the park & environs from all over Kajiado district, there is precious little grazing in the dispersal area, so the zebra have responded by trekking into the park in numbers.

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The plains zebra is extraordinarily well adapted to a nomadic, very social life on the African savannah. Unlike wildebeest, which have practically disappeared from the park ecosystem in recent years, zebra numbers might even be going UP!

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Edging around the top of the Sosian valley to get to the short grass plains in the north of the park.

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The zebra is ever on the move, restlessly moving to look for new pastures & able to make use of all types of grazing.The plains resound with the calls of the stallions trying to keep their family herds together “quagga, quagga……”. Strange to think that this superabundant mammal was completely eradicated in the Cape in the 19th century…..let us hope that the same fate does not await our maginificent wild equines.

Below a herd of zebra in a sea of grass with the Ngong Hills in the distance, to the east of the park.

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Cattle Invasion

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The Athi Kapiti grasslands, of which the Nairobi National Park is a part – a dry season refuge for the grazers, both domestic & wild, that live here-is one of the richest rangelands in the world.

A prolonged dry cycle, a truncating ecosystem (thanks to NNP’s position right next to the rapidly expandig city of Nairobi) & too much livestock on a diminishing & degrading grass resource outside the park has led to thousands of cattle grazing within it.

Above you can see a microcosm of healthy rangeland -forbs, herbs & grasses which provide for the rich diversity of herbivores which depend upon it.

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The park has received fair rains, in contrast with the dispersal area & the wider Kajiado district, which is suffering from drought, is terribly overgrazed & where sights such as above are no longer seen…..

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A view of the Athi Basin in the park, the Athi Dam in the foreground & large herds of cattle in the background. This picture is taken on a sunday evening, when visitor numbers are at a premium. Notice the zebra in the foreground, now filtering back into the park after the traditional ‘migration’ out of he park during the rains. They didn’t find much grazing out on the plains……

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Cattle……INSIDE the electric boundary fence……..

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A vision of the future for NNP?

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Note the herd of resting wildebeest behind the grazing cattle.

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The protected areas of Kenya are currently under siege by cattle & livestock generally, because of the drought. There is a clear conflict of interest between that of KWS (mandated to protect & manage protected areas) & pastoralists whose livestock is threatened by the drought.

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But if livestock is allowed to graze in parks (often because of political pressure) then what becomes of park rules? If herders are allowed in the park with hundreds of cattle why should anybody else PAY to enter ? Overseas visitors pay 40$ to visit NNP. Are they getting their moneysworth? Will they return in the future? What will they tell their tour operators back home?

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Nairobi National Farm?

Nairobi National Park Wet Season

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Although the dry cycle continues & Kenya north of Central Province is still horribly dry, in Nairobi we have had some (less than average) rain.

Unlike many parts of the country (Mara -Laikipia), the vulture population of the NNP ecosystem remains healthy. The population of White Backed vultures which nest in the park is of especial importance, but we also have visiting Griffons from the Rift Valley & at least one pair of Lappet Faced, seen in this picture…..

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Most of the large mammals (such as this bull eland) are now concentrated in the Athi Basin & on the plains of the Sheep & Goat land just to the south east of the park, though hundreds of zebra, true to their natures, have wandered farther afield.They will be back soon, because the dispersal area is terribly overgrazed & there has not been enough rain for the grasslands (in the past one of the richest rangelands in the world) to recover.

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You never know what you might come across in the park, such as this steinbok in the Athi Basin, seen clearly in the background…

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The breeding season for ostrich is here again (July/August) & the cocks are red-necked with excitement. In this picture is a flock of last year’s chicks,now yearlings. NNP has the highest density of wild ostrich in Africa……

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The most wary (could we deduce the most intelligent) of the antelopes- eland- have sensibly decided not to leave the park this year: there is simply nowhere for them TO go & they run a very high risk of being hunted for meat outside the park….

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NNP is a quite exraordinarily diverse bit of country, given it’s small size (120 square kilometres.) As well as protecting classic savannah plains & dry highland forest & several river valleys, in the wet season, after rain, tiny intricate little wetlands occur such as this pool in the Athi Basin. A whole little aquatic cycle of life plays out with the existence of life giving water until the equatorial sun reasserts itself……

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The big cats are doing well & we have 3 known cheetah in NNP, including a female with a single cub. Here is the scarey male – he’s a survivor- & you can see why: look at the industrial conurbation adjacent to the plains which are his home. The last of the Athi Plains, now surrounded by a humanised landscape.

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The Athi Plains were home to coutless thousands of gazelles in the past, including Grantis like these, whom the Maasai call “oloibor siadi” -the white behinds. You can  clearly see why in this picture. Gazelles are more & more moving back into the park, which now , in this dry cycle, contains their preferred short-grass plain habitat. But they have to be aware of the one animal faster even than they:cheetah.

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NNP is an island of biodiversity showing what the Athi-Kapiti Ecosystem really is, now surrounded by overgrazed &  environmentally degraded & increasingly urbanised plains on all sides. The last habitat, therefore, for these Jackson’s whydahs, respendent in their breeding plumage. This species is dependent on long grass, where the males create dancing grounds where they bob up & down a couple of feet at each jump- an extraordinary sight – in order to attract the females!