Photos & Story by Will Knocker:
The dispersal area is severely overgrazed by livestock, partly owing to rangeland loss to development.
The Last Wildebeest? The Athi-Kapiti Ecosystem, of which the Park & dispersal area are the northern park, was once one of the world’s richest grassland ecosystems: it is estimated to provide a home for 100,000 wildebeest. We counted 2 bulls out on the plains at Sholingei..
Looking east down the Kitengela river valley; a major ‘mlango’ for wilflife to move to Top Plains at Sholingei; this is a humanised landscape not suitable even for passage by large grazers.
Heliotrope flowers in bloom where grass no longer grows….
Roads gouged out of the good earth by the stone trucks serving the quarries that take up the river valleys in the dispersal area, ceaselessly removing tons of blocks of stone with which to build the city of Nairobi & particularly the fast growing dormitory towns of Ongata Rongai & Kitengela (in picture.)
“Community Land”? This is government land: the old livestock holding ground for Athi River. It is now used for grazing by local herders, but permanent settlements there (of which there are quite a few) are illegal. At least the herders stop the area from being built over by the fast-growing Kitengela township…….& pastoralism is of course very compatible with wildlife as far as land-use is concerned.
When the park lions venture onto the ‘Sheep & Goat Land’ as this essential bit of the dispersal area is called, it is a very different story: if they kill livestock, there is a major conflict of interest & they will be killed in retribution……
New (built last year) temporary (there is no one living there now) homestead designed to hold livestock to illegally graze in the park during dry spells.
Giraffe in the block of the Park across the Empakasi, adjacent to Sheep & Goat Land
The breeding herd of eland across the river: the instincts of this highly migratory species tell them to move out of the Park; but they have nowhere to go…….
If we do not take the Sheep & Goat land seriously, we might lose the last few gnu we have in NNP…..
The amazing Athi Basin, where all “the migrants” go to after rain…..thankfully, sp. such as kongoni now stay in the Park & their population is increasing by leaps & bounds: elsewhere in Africa, all hartebeest are in steep decline wherever there are cattle (with whom they compete) & therefore overgrazed rangelands, which is not hartebeest habitat…
The dispersal area across the river is vital to NNP & ESPECIALLY TO WILDEBEEST: this is where they live & calve…..
Suburban wildebeest: the pressure is on for this species, both in the Park & in the rest of the Athi-Kapiti Ecosystem…..(remember there used to be 100,000…….!!!!)
The Dispersal Area is riddled with quarries & the air filled with the blasting of dynamite…..the plains of the Athi-Kapiti are , below a miniscule layer of earth, are in fact solid rock!
Tuala, a typical frontier town where land speculation is the main activity: the plains of the Dispersal Area is being rapidly parcelled out: townships & suburban areas will completely encircle the Park within, I would estimate, 10 years…..
One idea: if a part of the northern bit of the Park is to be excised to make way for the Southern Bypass, as seems likely, can the authorities not look to formalise the Sheep & Goat Land as an integral part of NNP, forever??