By Will Knocker:


Maasai giraffes in the Mokoyeti Valley, NNP: in August 96 individuals were counted.

4-P1050770Despite the drought, giraffes are doing well, able to reach those parts of browse others unable to reach…3-P1050766

Old George, one of the dominant males..


He is of a very dark complexion: Maasai giraffes vary enormously in their coat colours..


A glimpse of the famous foot-long prehensile tongue


Old George: King of all he surveys..


Young, female twiga


A young giraffe, the future in NNP, a haven for these amazing & majestic animals, in decline now throughout the African range….



By Will Knocker:


NNP has one of the most significant herds of eland in the country.


We have perfect eland habitat with plenty of seasonal grazing & browsing, in a variety of habitats from semi-desert scrub to dry afromontane forest.


Eland have huge ranges, however and our herd is now confined to the 130 square kilometre Park and surrounding buffer zones and conservancies.

The SGR railway is about to punch through this haven for elands and so many other creatures. Will they survive going into the future?


The eland: the largest of African antelopes: perfectly adapted to survive in harsh African conditions, is now reduced to a few thousand individuals in Kenya.





“Bull Eland Trotting” by Lavinia Grant.

These magnificent creatures deserve space: let us give it to them?









Lions Doing Well in NNP

By Will Knocker


We came across this lioness (collared poor thing: why?) with 3 cubs just below the Olomanyi Dam: the naughty cubs followed her when she needed to go hunting: they were unceremoniously taken back by the scruff of the neck (the other 2 cubs followed behind…)


Then in March we came across this mating pair at the top of the Athi Basin: more cubs to come?


Just what is the relationship between these adult lions?

The genetics of the NNP lions not great: inbreeding, but KWS unwilling or unable to do anything about it…..

Nonetheless the Park is a Lion’s Paradise, with a huge biomass & as much wildlife as a lion can eat.


Yesterday (Sunday 26) at dawn we came across a lioness in the Olomanyi valley trotting along with a purpose: she doubled back up the hill as though looking for something…..another adult lioness !


They met up with much purring & rubbing of faces & then out of the (very dry) scrub came 4 sub-adult lions: 1 male & 3 females & again a huge reunion: a delight to watch…They all headed off into the kichaka at the valley bottom .


These giraffes nearby were almost as surprise as we were to see this wonderful Lion Reunion !

There are estimated to be 35 -40 lions in the Nairobi National Park, some adult males of which we could hear roaring last night (26/3) hear at Silole…



By Will Knocker:


Mohawk as a young lion…2009…


Portrait of a lion: there are quite a few adult male lions in NNP: they compete,even though they are brothers…


Lion life,especially perhaps for males, tends to be nasty,brutish & short in the wild…


The original adult male after the killings of lions in 2005 brought the numbers down to just 5…father of all lions in the Park now: Ujonjo in the Silole Sanctuary 2010



In the prime of Life, with his distinctive mane…




Mohawk in his natural habitat: the sad Reality is that lions which leave the safety of NNP will be lost in the surrounding city & killed…He was chased out by his (dominant) brothers & went to find happier hunting grounds…


The Spirit of Mohawk lives on…there are less than 2000 lions in Kenya & about 20,000 ONLY in the whole of Africa:

Our lions are very precious…


Lions should be wild & free, because that is what they symbolise for us humans; the King of Beasts…


There is a MAJOR problem with lion genetics in NNP: all the lions are related & male lions, unlike in a wild, natural setting, are unable to get in & out of the Park, so KWS should bring in males from the outside: Nakuru NP would be an ideal ‘swopping area’ as it is fenced, like NNP & the males can get neither in nor out…

Recent research sadly shows that the only places in Africa where lion numbers are stable or increasing is in fenced Protected Areas (Packer et al 2010) so intense genetic management is a must,alas….


RIP Mohawk ….


Will KWS really Allow SGR to Destroy NNP?

By Brian Finch;

On the main road in, there were Nightingales singing in the scrub, and
others were at five other locations in the north, and on the way to
Ivory Burning Site was the first of only two Spotted Flycatchers. The
Site failed to produce anything of interest, although there was an
Irania singing from a patch of thick scrub nearby, attempts to lure it
into sight failed miserably. Whilst looking for it, a pair of
Dark-capped Yellow Warblers was nest building. On the way to Nagalomon
Dam there was no sign of the Spotted Thick-knees, but on the dam it
was all go in the Sacred Ibis rookery. There were a few chicks but
most were incubating. Towards the top of the rookery were three
African Spoonbills which were displaying. If these were to breed then
it would be a new nesting species for the Park. The few Cattle Egrets
present showed no sign of nesting, but the scattered Black-crowned
Night-Herons already had flying young. The margin was quiet with a few
Green and Wood Sandpipers, but on the sand spit was a smart young male
Knob-billed Duck and an adult African Jacana. Crowning the top of the
tree only a few metres from the nesting Ibis was an adult Fish Eagle,
whilst the only Darter present sought a quieter perch off to the side.

Taking the back road to Hyena Dam, there was a Thrush Nightingale
singing in the scrub but it remained in cover. Not a species that
usually winters in NNP. Passing the apartments where someone keeps a
pigeon loft, the birds were receiving much attention from a Great
Sparrowhawk. Usually there is a chase and either success or failure
and the bird moves on, but on this occasion the pigeons only kept
flying between a tree and the loft, and the raptor kept in the area
and persistently swooped on them. We left the bird there with the
nervous pigeons. In the swamp at the back of Hyena Dam there was an
African Water Rail, a few Wood and Green Sandpipers and a short-billed
fairly dark Snipe (see image). Of the two Yellow Wagtails one was a
young male lutea and the other indeterminate. Our first of six
Whinchats was along here, all birds today were in dull plumage, but
the best bird was the adult Great Spotted Eagle perched on a small
acacia and later flew right over us several times affording superb
views (see images). At Hyena Dam the water is receding but the
assemblage was varied with a female Darter, pair of White-faced
Whistling Ducks and a Red-billed Teal, two Yellow-billed and an
attractive adult Open-billed Stork, an adult Glossy Ibis and two
non-breeding Squacco Herons. A Fish Eagle perched in the large acacia,
an African Water Rail sauntered across the road, just one Swamphen and
the same for Long-toed Plover, but the two Spur-winged were present.
Two African Jacanas, but no sign of the immatures, whilst migrant
waders consisted of a dozen Wood and five Green Sandpipers and two
Common Snipe. In the lantana along the causeway were three Sedge and
two Eurasian Reed Warblers, the last were both singing, and one was in
exactly the same little clump where one wintered last year, suggesting
the same bird and site fidelity, but then maybe the Sedge are also
returnees. The reeds held ten Yellow-crowned Bishops, but today only
three Red-collared and one breeding male Jackson’s Widowbirds were
seen indicating a massive withdrawal from the Park.
We continued along the run-off and made a circuit crossing the
Mokoyeti Bridge where there was a pair of Wahlberg’s Honeybirds giving
aerial chase.

We then looked at the most scenically beautiful piece of the Park,
which is the Kisembe Forest with the small rocky river of the same
name. There was a reason to take this route, and that was to take
images to make people aware of what we are about to lose if the Kenya
Government gets its way to destroy it with the railway-line carving it
up with irreversible damage. In addition the destruction of the river
which is the source of the water courses that flow southwards through
the Park to the Mbagathi River. The area is home to the most important
of all Black Rhinoceros territory in East Africa. The species has
always survived well in NNP, it is not a reintroduction but the
original descendants of animals that were widespread but now
exterminated. It is from this core area for the species that important
reintroductions were successful in other Parks, Reserves and Game
Ranches. Were it not for the Nairobi Rhinos, there would be far far
fewer in East Africa and the continent would be all the poorer.

When Nairobi was first populated, the area had extensive
Brachylaena-Olive-Croton Forest, but soon the town and later city
engulfed the unique habitat, it is only with the timely creation of
Nairobi National Park that a small representation of this attractive
mix of forest, glades and open vleis was saved. Once this has gone the
unique habitat will be lost for ever, to say nothing of the Black
Rhinoceros resident there, and the abundant and varied life forms that
call Kisembe Forest their home. So I thought that a collection of
images of the habitat would make a nice memento of the future “what
once was!”

Earlier I took a photo of the plaque on the small monument
commemorating the visit of the Chinese Premier, and his excellency
President Uhuru Kenyatta for the ceremonial second Ivory burn at Ivory
Burning Site. It states on the plaque…. no, best to read the
Presidential proclamation for yourself, it is the centre of the
montage remember this was just twenty months ago.

As we drove slowly along the tracks there were numerous butterflies,
scattering Suni and a very attractive pair of Ayre’s Hawk-Eagles, as
well as a Bateleur. This is the only breeding pair left in Nairobi,
and today it is a long drive to the nearest Bateleurs, the most
stately, and most attractive of our eagles. The only migrant Common
Buzzard was also here. The Hippogrebe Dam, Langata Dam and the
Forest-Edge Dam each had a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes, four other
small dams today held paired Crowned Cranes, Karen Primary School Dam
has one unattached bird. Undoubtedly we did not see every pair of
cranes in the Park. Grey Crowned Crane numbers are falling at an
alarming rate outside of protected areas, on an Africa-Wide
classification the species is now considered threatened with
extinction, and everything should be done to protect it. Nairobi
National Park has a very healthy population that annually produce
young successfully, hopefully this iconic species will receive all the
protection it requires and deserves, and will continue to be a
familiar sight for future generations.
Langata Dam held the days only Little Grebe, and a few pairs of
White-backed Vultures were perched near nests in that area, but it
could not be ascertained whether they were currently using the nests
or not. Next to Forest-Edge Dam we did watch a vulture nest-building.
Interestingly it would break branches off neighbouring trees, which
was a revelation and explains why you never see vultures as with other
birds of prey collecting sticks off the ground, but I wonder why this
is. White-backed Vultures have declined by 95% throughout Africa in
the past decade, Kisembe Forest and other parts of Nairobi National
Park have the most successful breeding population of the species left
on the planet. It would be a travesty to lose a single pair of this
greatly endangered species.

From Kisembe Forest we continued to Kingfisher Picnic Site, another
important site if only for a picnic in idyllic peaceful surroundings,
but maybe soon the railway going through it will change any sense of
either idyllic or peaceful. There was a pair of Tawny Eagles nest
building, with much cavorting and display. Also a pair of Meyer’s
(Brown) Parrots was well concealed in the acacia canopy. On the old
burn area were two Northern Wheatears, with another on the inside road
near Maasai Gate passing old currently flooded murrum pits. The area
also had our only two Turkestan Shrikes and a pair of Speckle-fronted
Weavers, whilst a little further towards Leopard Cliffs was an
immature Great Spotted Cuckoo with attractive reddish-orange flight
feathers (see image). Rosy-breasted Longclaws were frequent, but as
can be seen on the montage, the colour is fading fast. We had our
lunch by the Mbagathi directly below Leopard Cliffs, with a pair of
Fish Eagles and wing-waving displaying Striped Kingfishers for

Athi Dam was fairly quiet with high water still. Quiet apart from the
500 or more Marabous that were dropping in and landing on the shore.
The high water has dropped enough to reveal a narrow ribbon of the old
track around the dam, but the edge was crowded with the Marabous. We
drove slowly through the Marabou flock, not one took flight and all
only stepped to the side to allow our passage. There is something
surreal about driving through a large flock of huge birds that just
walk away to no more than a couple of metres from the car, and close
the road again as soon as the space is left vacant!
Accompanying the Marabous were single each of White and an immature
Open-billed Storks. Waders included six Spur-winged Plover, three each
of Common Sandpiper and Little Stint and one Greenshank.

On the Vulture bathing pools at the head of Athi Basin were some
thirty White-backs and five Ruppell’s enjoying the procedure until an
idiot got out of his vehicle to flush them for his wageni, they didn’t
go far though. There was a Laughing Dove on a small Acacia mellifera,
these are usually confined to the Cheetah Gate area, and three
Quailfinch were the only ones seen today. At Eland Hollow we found a
handsome Spur-winged Goose at the site where they bred successfully
two years ago, and on a small un-named flooded murrum shallow a female
Saddle-billed Stork was also enjoying a vigorous bathe. This closest
Saddle-billed Storks to this only pair in Nairobi are Amboseli to the
south, Naivasha to the north, Maasai Mara to the west. The bird is
endangered and now few pairs are found in Kenya. Out over the
grasslands, Barn Swallows were in rather small numbers, and only three
Banded Martins were seen. The dehydration of the grasslands in the
north is more advanced than the south, where the rains were
considerably much later.

We departed through the Main Gate at 4.00pm, having had, as we always
do without any exception, a superb day in Nairobi National Park having
recorded 179 species of birds.



Incomparable NNP

By Will Knocker:

Apologies for paucity of updates recently, but am now back in the saddle…

The Park is looking amazing this year after record rains in April May & June.

Yesterday I took a turn around the Park & this is what I found:


Dawn in the Park is always the best time for me…


I found 3 lions: 2 lionesses & a male asleep after the night’s activity asleep at the bottom of the Sosian valley


A Browse rhino in it’s natural habitat..


And a separate bull at closer quarters…


A cow hippo at Athi dam (notice her calf in the water.)

Sadly she is grazing on the dreaded Parthenium weed which is taking over the area…& Nairobi.


Athi Dam: my favourite place….


A ‘tirikoko’ (Maa): a Yellow-bellied sandgrouse


There are hundreds, if not thousands of impala in the Park.

Gazelles, without any space to wander outside the Park, are also increasing in number..



Kongoni (a species in steep decline elsewhere owing to competition with cattle: this is a species evolved to living in long-grass environments) are increasing in numbers in NNP.


Amazingly well-adapted & intelligent Plains zebras are now in the Park in their thousands.

They DO go out of the Park, but it is increasingly dangerous owing to the Bushmeat trade.

Better to stay in the Park in spite of the danger from lions…


It is mating season for Masai ostriches, of which there are masses in the Park: we hope for plenty of chicks in September/October…


The Ngong Hills from the Park: this is Big Sky country..


Plenty of grazers in the ocean of grass this year: outside in the pockets of ‘dispersal area’,  once super-productiver rangelands like these have been converted into a Man-made desert….


At Eland Hollow, I came across 3 lionesses & 5 large cubs watching the lines of zebra filing into drink…


Learning to watch………and wait…..


Nairobi Before & After….


At lease there is some competition for the skyscrapers!


NNP remains an amazing & precious & incomparable wildlife area,

full of Nature’s marvellous evolved bounty.





Ostriches in NNP

By Will Knocker


It is said that Nairobi National Park has the greatest concentration of Maasai ostriches

anywhere & certainly it is a good place to observe & photograph these enormous,

ungainly but beautiful birds.


During the Long Rains, when there is plenty to eat, the birds get sexy & mate (see


Chicks hatch & a pair of ostriches might have up to 30 young in their nursery flock,

which are fiercely guarded by the parents.


Sadly ostrich chicks suffer very high mortality & only  a few at most manage

to escape the attentions of predators.


In an Anthropecenic world, where there is very little space for ostriches

to freely breed & reproduce, aren’t we fortunate to have the Park as

an a sanctuary for ostriches, amongst many other forms of life?

Jackals in NNP

By Will Knocker:


Black-backed jackals have not been a common sight in NNP in the last ten years.


These delightful little wild canids were feared to have been decimated by domestic dog diseases. The Park, surrounded as it is by the city of Nairobi & it’s suburbs (containing thousands of domestic dogs), certainly does not seem a good place for these fascinating (& difficult to photograph) animals..


But in recent years their numbers have shot up: testament to the extraordinarily large biomass in the Park, where wildlife has nowhere else to live.



At one time, a few years ago the, Park was down to just one breeding female of this sp. after another was run over by a speeding visitor..


Off they go…there were 5 in this family group, whose noctournal yelping “Kwe…Kwe…” I can hear from my home in the Silole Sanctuary just outside the Park….

Dispersal Area


By Will Knocker:


For many years now, folks concerned with Nairobi National Park & it’s future have discussed the “migration” of wildlife in & out of the Park through “corridors” to a “conservation area” somewhere in the Kitengela. The fact is that NNP is now, to all intents & purposes, surrounded by the city & my purpose in this photo-essay is to show that this is the sad truth…


The only area unfenced along the Southern boundary of the Park is in the Athi Basin, west of Athi River town, where a Block of the Park exists in fact ACROSS the Empakasi river. This Block adjoins an area called the Sheep & Goat land which is supposedly government land but is in fact occupied & grazed by the local Maasai.


Brand new house & fence in this area, supposedly leased by the Wildlife Foundation as open rangeland suitable for wildlife.


This area is vital for the Park’s population of Eastern White-Bearded wildebeest, of which about 250 individuals exist in the Park from an estimated population of 100,000 in the Athi Kapiti ecosystem a hundred years ago…. they give birth to their calves outside the Park.



The area, especially in the woodland within the Park, has been taken over by the dreaded invasive weed Parthenium.


The boundary road along the edge of the Park.


The Athi Plains were rich & very biodiverse, especially in species of large grazers. These are now confined to the Park.


The Last Gnu? We’re nearly there….


A vision of the Future: urbanization & a world in which wild grazers have been replaced by cattle.


The Sheep & Goat Land today (all that is left of the ‘Dispersal Area’): homesteads, roads, ploughed areas, livestock, people, dogs,boda-bodas….is this really suitable for wildlife?


This just about sums it up……


The Park boundary….


This image shows the extraordinary richness of the grasslands of the Athi-Kapiti ecosystem, if it were protected, as this is, by fencing, paradoxically death to the population of wild grazers which once made this area a second Serengeti.

The parcelling out of the plains continues apace: you can buy yours by looking for ‘Kitengela Plots for Sale’ in your paper today.

Luckily, we still have the whole 120 square kilometres of the Park without people, livestock  or fences as a last refuge .




On the Athi Plains

By Will Knocker:


Is there a better place to be than on the African Plain?


On the Athi Plain in particular where grass is a super-abundant resource….


NNP & what is left (very little) of the dispersal area is home to a herd of 4000 Plains zebra…


and 18 species of Bovidae (buffalo & antelopes..)



And all this in a city of 5 million H. sapiens………WOW !