Tag Archives: eland

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!

Game Count April 5th

Apologies for the delay in passing on these figures:I have been away in the NFD (sadly little but ostriches, grantis & a few gerenuk to report from there….)

The following figures are significant because they represent most of the large mammals currently to be found in the Nairobi National Park & environs. Most of all species were in the park looking for grazing and/or water in the midst of a nasty drought which has now, thankfully, broken.

The question remains: where are the 300 odd eland, the 700 odd kongoni & the 1,000 gnu here counted going to go now? (The 3000 zebra are better adapted to living out on the humanised Athi Plains that is the dispersal area nowadays)

The fact is that they are going to have to adapt to living in what is an increasinly encircled Nairobi National Park……

Count was conducted by KWS & FONNAP:

Buffalo 372

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Bushbuck 7

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Dikdik 10 (the counters have misidentified suni -a dwarf forest antelope- here….)

Duiker 1

Eland 281

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Grants gazelle 246

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Thomsons gazelle 417

Giraffe 123

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Kongoni (Hartebeest) 675

Steinbok 2

Waterbuck 20

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Wildebeest 989

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Warthog 62

Impala 502

Black rhino 6

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Zebra 3071

Baboon 71

Vervet monkey 37

Spotted hyena 6

Silver backed jackal 2

Lion 2

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Serval 1

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Ostrich 94

Antelopes of Nairobi National Park

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Today’s offering (after hours downloading images…..) is about the many species of antelope to be found within the various habitats of the park. These range from species represented by hundreds of individuals, to those such as these Mountain Reedbuck, of which there can only be about 20, all found in one locality in the park:in the Sosian valley.

How does a group such as this manage to survive, genetically?

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Here’s a Mountain Reedbuck doe. Difficult to photograph, these small species of buck…Notice the gland below the ear. Antelope live in a secret world of scent difficult for us to comprehend & have glands near their eyes, & between their hooves & leave subtle messages in their lavatories telling others of their kind who what why & where they are….

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The once dominant species of the Athi Kapiti Ecosystem, now represented by just a few hundred animals when in years past there were thousands! At least we’ve got at least 20 more this year.Wildebeest have calved in the safety of the park owing to the on-going drought.

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The King of Antelopes, a bull eland. Mostly confined to the park these days owing to habitat loss in the dispersal area, this species is doing very well.

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A Coke’s hartebeest or kongoni, in typical stance. This species is doing so well in the park that it must be getting close to it’s maximum sustainable population. This is excellent news as elsewhere this species is in decline.

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A Bohor (where does this name originate?) reedbuck ram. Although there must have been Bohor reedbuck in the wetlands at the Eastern edge of the park historically, many have been translocated in from Western Kenya. These animals are very difficult to see & (like most small antelope) hide motionless in the vegetation as a defensive measure.

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A Mountain Reedbuck ram testing a female in oestrous.

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The best shot I have been able to get of the elusive steenbok, which live in pairs. Having no horns I assume this is a juvenile.

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The elegant bushbuck is one of the most widespread antelopes in Africa, able to live close to humans (like in my garden) if not hunted. Solitary animals, they are numerous in all the habitats of the park apart from on the plains.

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Impala are also a very adaptable & successful species, though they are water dependent.

Well over 600 in & around the park show that this species is flourishing in the park.

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A doe oribi with young. This species has been translocated into the park.Hopefully it will not compete with the duiker sp. which occur in the park (grey & bush?)

I could not get pictures of suni (which occur in the Langata forest) or dikdik, (which I have never seen in the park but which can be found along the Embakasi Gorge & in the Silole Sanctuary.) Does anybody have images of these three species? Or klipspringer?

Below is a waterbuck, which occurs both in the Langata Forest & in the Athi Basin.

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Game Count in Nairobi National Park, 1st February 2009

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On 1st of February a game count took place in the park. These figures are MINIMUMS but give a good idea of overall TRENDS in the park, which , as the dry season refuge for the Athi Kapiti ecosystem is full of migratory game right now owing to the ongoing dry cycle.

In addition, the park is getting more & more isolated & many of the species present in the park are today confined to it, owing to the ‘humanisation’ of the dispersal area.

Warthog (above) have recovered from the rinderpest outbreak that nearly wiped them out 10 years ago & can be found all over the park:they are breeding well & will provide a much needed source of food for the lions once the wet season arrives in April (hopefully!) when the zebra move out. 38 were counted.

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Buffaloes are also increasing in number in the park: 355 were counted, but no doubt there plenty more up in the Langata forest, where these grazers are concentrated right now.

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Giraffe (the Masai variety) can be very easily approached in the park & bulls often refuse to move out of the road on the approach of an oncoming vehicle.After all, they have right of way & are several times taller than any vehicle……157 were counted.This is probably close to the real population figure, giraffe being so visible & easy to count.

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Eland are a species that are going to be more & more confined to the park as it is encircled by development. A shy species, eland cannot take disturbances associated with people & need the browsing that has all but disappeared outside the park owing to habitat change &  the presence of goats.

There are several nursery herds in the park (eland calves have an intense attraction for one another) which is good news as they and their mothers are safe from meat hunters, (eland meat is particularly delicious & such big animals are very valuable to a poacher) & their dogs…….211 were counted in the game count.

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As Kenya’s premier rhino sanctuary, the rhinos will have been disturbed by the recent cattle invasions of the southern boundary. They need territory & peace & quiet to breed. 12 were counted and this probably gives a good estimation of the total, which might be twice this number (which would make 24 individuals.) The KWS given figure of 65 is erroneous……

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The gazelles are back, which is terrific news: 148 Thomson’s were counted & 94 Grant’s, which is a greater total than for many years; a vindication of the KWS policy of controlled burning, which has restored the short-grass plains habitat to the park.

Sadly the victim of too many years of no burning & during a wet cycle has been cheetahs.A single male occurs in the park: all that remains of a population which was forced to move out of the park as there were no gazelles for them to feed on…….

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I’m surprised that only 1,682 zebra were counted. They are very adaptive & are well able to move out into the humanised dispersal area in the Rains. They’re breeding this year in the park as it is so dry………….Having said this, there are STILL zebra outside on the parched  & overgrazed plains.

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632 impala were counted in the park, showing that it’s wide range of habitats is perfect for this medium sized antelope, which browses or grazes, according to the seasonal food supply.

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The very best news is that the gnu are back in the park in good numbers after many many years.203 were counted & this number should go up as the cows are calving right now: in the park for the first time that I can recall over a 10 period. Again the presence of short grass plain habitat makes all the difference to these wanderers of the plains, whose habitat has been gobbled up by the fast expanding city of Nairobi.

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Kongoni are also breeding well: 371 were counted & with a whole new generation born in (& increasingly confined to) the park, hopefully this species will adapt to staying in the park as outside is no longer suitable habitat.

Below is Ujonjo the Big Male of the park’s estimated 22 lions, of which 18 were counted. (Photo by Gareth Jones -thanks!) The lions are having a great time with so much to feed on & at least one of the 5 adult lionesses is reported pregnant.

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Dry cycle

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Here’s to a great 2009 for Nairobi national Park & readers of this blog.

It’s very dry in Nairobi (& indeed in central & eastern Kenya generally) & the Park is coming into it’s own in it’s traditional role as a dry season refuge for grazers, both wild & domestic. Most of the grazers in the dispersal area are now in the park, including our 3,000 estimated zebra population , good numbers of kongoni (c.600), a similar number of eland & close to 300 gnu, who are thriving on the dessicated short-grass plain characteristic of most of the park at present.

It’s a good time to be a lion in NNP, with our estimated 22 lions in good shape owing to plentiful prey. Here’s a great shot by local lion fanatic Gareth Jones.

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The lions are often found near the fast-diminishing water points, such as the Empakasi Dam, seen here with a mob of thirsty zebra.

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Judging by the water level of the Athi Dam, it might dry up this year, for the first time that I can remember! Luckily in the park we have several spring-fed dams that are very unlikely to dry up. Notice the wildebeest.

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Masai cattle (c.1000) are also grazing in the park day & night despite intermittent KWS efforts to keep them out. Impossible when there is zero grazing outside the park.

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NNP is the best place in the world for ostriches & they do very well in the dry, needing minimal water. They have bred very well this year (see above) & lions are eating quite a few of the less wary….

Meanwhile high mortality rates in these dry conditions mean bonanza times for scavengers, such as these vultures. Every cloud has a silver lining for some!

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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…

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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!

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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…

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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?

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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.

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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….

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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 (www.silolesanctuary.com) 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.

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