Orange Comes to NNP

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Yesterday I was driving in my favourite bit of NNP -the relatively unvisited Athi Basin- when I was shocked to see a radiomast in the middle of the Acacia mellifera bush which had not been there 10 days before.
On ringing the warden, he told me that this was “a long story” but that Telkom/Orange had built their facility in the middle of the park.
This fait accompli begs a few questions.

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Since when were private companies allowed to build in national parks?
How can KWS be so short-sited as to allow the building of this eye-sore in the middle of the last remaining corridor for migratory species moving in & out of the park?

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Why has Cheetah Gate been closed (thus abandoning the most vulnerable corner of the park) & is it just coincidence that as soon as this gate is closed a new development is authorised?

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Would somebody from KWS (preferably Warden Wanjau) respond to these questions & tell us how they fit in with his declared vision of making NNP a “world class park”?
If not we can only conclude that KWS is continuing its policy of “income generation above all else”, whilst not fulfilling it’s core function of protecting Kenya’s priceless wildlife resources (see John Mbaria’s article in The East African a few months ago…..sadly I have no link…..)

NNP Leopards

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Leopards are famously elusive & those that live in & around NNP are no exception.

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Having said that we may say that chui do well in the diverse habitats of the park, with it’s rocky river gorges, forests & savannah. Here there is a wide selection of possible food, ranging from plump rock hyraxes to rodents & fully grown antelope of various species.

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Leopards regularly prowl on the mabati roof of my house & recently 3 adults were seen from the verandah of Silole Villa (presumably 2 grown up cubs & their mother.)

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Here are some great photographs of some of our leopards by Dave McKelvie, a great afficianado of the park & perhaps especially of it’s big cats……

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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