Hyenas in Nairobi Park


Nairobi National Park is a haven for the Spotted Hyena -Crocuta crocuta-surely one of the most fascinating of the large Carnivora…..

Being noctournal animals, these creatures are shrouded in myth, much of it ignorant, such as the belief that hyenas are scavengers…….in fact they are ¬†intelligent,very social,highly effective predators very often at the top of the food chain in the savannah ecosystem.

They are also quite at home in ‘human zones’ such as cities & in suburban situations. To give an example, Ethiopia is home to tens of thousands of these large predators & yet has no significant wildlife numbers. Reason:Ethiopia has the highest livestock population in Africa & as hyenas are tolerated by the people, they do very nicely thank you & do an excellent job keeping the streets clean.

In Nairobi, in contrast, owing to ignorance, they have been persecuted since the city of Nairobi was founded 100 years ago. A bounty was paid on dead hyenas up to the ’60’s & in the ’70’s large-scale poisoning of large predators was the norm.

Only recently have their numbers begun to go up & today we have a good population (numbers unknown) in Nairobi National Park.


Above & top, a ‘clan’ of hyenas at the Athi Dam -these animals are not easily seen in the daytime:they are more usually heard at night; their characteristic contact loud whooping call being a characteristic sound of the African wilderness…..


Hyenas enjoy a matriarchal society:females are larger than males & dominate in the social hierarchy…….


Here’s a soft focus pic of these cuddly predators, more usually pictured covered in gore at a kill…….

Let’s hope that hyenas have a rosey future in the unique Nairobi National Park, where the wilderness of the Athi Plains rubs shoulders with a metropolis of 5 million Homo sapiens.

Ideal habitat for these opportunistic & intelligent animals…….

Nairobi Park Oasis


Nairobi City -a bustling 24/7 metropolis which is now home to an estimated 800,000 vehicles……….above a picture of matatus on the Magadi road at dawn.

Below, a scene in the park just a few hundred metres away from the ‘morning madness’ shown above………

Photographs for reflection on what Nairobi National Park & other protected areas really mean by Gareth Jones.


Rhinos in Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park is unique from several different perspectives & not least that it is one of Kenya’s most successful rhino sanctuaries where rhinos breed well (see previous post.) Last year 10 Southern White rhinos (Grass rhinos) were translocated into the park & one has given birth….the first of this species to have beenborn in NNP.


Here are 3 of the Whites doing what they do best -grazing- in their new home.

Kingdon, the well known authority on African wildlife calls White rhinos “Grass” rhinos & blacks “Browse” ¬†rhinos owing to their different eating habits…..


A Black rhino in typical Whistling thorn habitat in NNP.


A Black rhino browsing….


Whites are considerably larger than Blacks & much more docile. On both counts much easier to observe in the field than the latter, who tend to lurk in thick bush, especially in the daytime…..


I hope my readers will recognise this little chap?


With his mother & neighbour……


A close up of a large pachyderm more redolent of the prehistoric than the concrete world of 2010…….

Lions in Nairobi National Park

Photographs by Rob Allen, Dave McKelvie & Will Knocker


Two lionesses stare at soaring vultures overhead, attracted by their kongoni kill.

I estimate between 35 ¬†& 40 lions in NNP all told, all descended from the 7 that remained in the park after the drought of 2005 when so many were killed after cattle-killing outside the park….

This is way above the historical average of 30 lions established by the lion researcher Judith Rudnai in the 70’s & a reflection of the changing conditions in NNP during a prolonged dry cycle.


4 adult lions move along a track in the park. Social groupings appear to consist of individual lionesses & their cubs right now, with at least 4 adult males (including the dominant male Ujonjo -perhaps the father of the whole lot!!) in the competition for mating rights. Traditionally there were 2 distinct prides in the park, but we seem to be in a confused transitional period now……


Two males investigating female urination….


And testing to see if they are in oestrus by exhibiting flehmen (below)…..


A portrait of a young pretender…….


With his coalition partner…..


Two lionesses watch a bull eland……


Below, three of a group of four cubs of a litter of four,ALL of whom survived during the recent drought, when food has been so plentiful in the park.

The NNP population of lions is very young, with all but 7 individuals being less than 5 years old & at least one more litter of young cubs recently observed…….notice the suburban backdrop, which sums up the area outside the park in 2010:certainly not suitable for big cats, though they regularly venture out at night…..


Below, 2 young lionesses of a group of 4, including a single young male photographed last weekend in the Athi Basin -these lions were nervous. Had they been out of the park the previous night & perhaps been chased out of a local cattle boma?


A lioness near Masai Gate, loking out over her fast diminishing kingdom outside the park.The day before this individual was observed to kill an adult male baboon in the Silole Sanctuary……