Cattle Invasion


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.


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…..


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……


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


A vision of the future for NNP?


Note the herd of resting wildebeest behind the grazing cattle.


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.


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?


Nairobi National Farm?

Nairobi National Park Wet Season


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…..


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.


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


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……


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….


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……


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.


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.


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!

Birding with Brian Finch 8th June

I visited Nairobi National Park just for the morning, and staying in
the northern parts. It would seem that no-one has been in the Park for
nearly three weeks. Since then there has been a reasonable rain, even
Olmanyi Dam is looking healthy with water into the sedges. The whole
place has a fresh feel, great swathes of both fresh green and freshly
seeding grasses and an abundance of wildflowers, but there has been a
mass exodus of mammals.
I arrived at 6-45am, it was quite dark, cold and the occasional
sprinkle of rain. It remained cool and overcast for much of the
morning, though brightened up around mid-day. There was nothing worthy
of note on the way in, Ivory Burning Site was birdless, the drive
along the back road to the back of Hyena Dam equally so apart from a
flock of thirty Greater Blue-eared Starlings in one bush. There were
two African Black Ducks flying off Hyena Dam, but nothing else there
at all. I then took the run-off track from the dam, and along the
creek near the first open water there was a Red-chested Flufftail
calling loudly from the same patch of reeds where I had heard one a
few weeks before, also African Water Rails calling here as well. The
adjacent grassland had attracted an abundance of Jackson’s Widowbirds,
they are in remarkable numbers, additionally five Yellow-crowned
Bishops and four Cardinal Queleas. There were also a few Zebra
Waxbills and Quailfinches. Circling around back through the grasslands
to Hyena Dam, there were White-tailed Larks in an abundance I had not
seen them in the Park before, with at least twelve in songflight, with
a few Rosy-breasted Longclaws. Still zero at Hyena Dam, and Nagalomon
Dam could provide nothing but a Giant Kingfisher, which was still
ahead of Olmanyi Dam which revealed nothing at all. However there were
no less than five Kori Bustards together along the approach road.
Continuing around to Kingfisher proved fruitless, apart from a record
concentration of 150 extremely noisy Chestnut Weavers at the small
bridge at the bottom of Hyena Valley. I took the inside road which
passed right through Kisembe Forest, there was a reasonable assortment
of butterflies on the wing though all normal early emergers. Sitting
on a dead tree was the largest female Peregrine I had ever seen, it
appeared as large as a Common Buzzard, and had a very full crop. A
little further ahead was an immature African Cuckoo-Hawk, and only (I
think) my second ever Black Cuckoo in the Park. As they have been
quite noisy around Langata this year, its presence in Kisembe Forest
is hardly surprising. The only other bird of interest was a single
Jacobin (Black-and-White Cuckoo) trailing a small mixed flock.
It appeared initially that when the palearctics left, they had taken
all of the other interesting afro-tropicals with them! The more
widespread rain means that Nairobi NP has lost its refuge status for
many species, however with persistence there are still some nice
surprises around with a bit of diligent searching.