Drought Crisis


Apologies for not posting for so long:school holidays & power cuts in Nairobi owing to the drought we are currently enduring.

The only winners in this situation are the scavengers, who are doing extremely well.

The fact is that Nairobi National Park has been invaded by thousands of head of hungry cattle from the overgrzed & drought stricken rangelands to the south.

What are the effects of this? Firstly, the grass resource of the park, which includes the last remaining pristine (?) corner of the Athi Kapiti Ecosystem, one of the richest grassland habitats in the world, has been grazed to the point of degradation by hordes of cattle. At this time of the year & in these exceptional dry conditions, all of the grazers in the ecosystem are also in the park:about 3,000 zebra, 1,000 wildebeest, 800 hartebeest & 600 eland, not to mention the resident rhinos (35?), buffaloes (1000) giraffe & the many different species of antelope (12 sp. in total.)

All of these creatures have suffered from this cattle invasion. Ostrich (NNP has the densest population of wild ostrich anywhere) have not nested this year;presuably displaced by the thousands of head of cattle grazing illegally at night. 2 rhinos are reported as having died due to “anthrax” -unlikely for a browsing species-much more probable is that these were males killed by territorial fighting as the rhinos have been squeezed into the areas of the park ungrazed by cattle, such as in the Langata forest.


Tourists in the battered tourist industry (wholly dependent on the network of “protected” areas “managed” by KWS) are paying 40$ a time to see sites such as this & forlorn herds of abandoned cattle in the overgrazed, cowpat littered park.

More serious is the health risk posed by carcasses of cattle left on riverbanks such as the Empakasi River shown here, whose toxic juices drain into a water source used by thirsty people downstrem at a time of acute water stress.


Anthrax, foot & mouth disease & East Coast Fever (ol tikana n Maa) are all reported in the herds of cattle coming to graze in the park, not all of which belong to suffering pastoralists, who are in crisis in this horile year. It is reported by KWS that many of these cattle belong to rich folk:prominent Kenyans & politicians…..

Here is the body of a dead impala -IN the river…..


Many parts of the park stink with many carcasses of starved/diseased cattle littering the dusty plains.

Litter is never collected in the park by those who manage it, who concentrate on revenue collection……this cattle has been eating plastic, which is an eye sore & a major health risk to the grazing animals in the park.


Whlist most illegal grazing happens at night, in the eastern part of the park close to Athi River, hundreds of cattle graze openly on the plains.

Notice the Athi Dam, which threatens to dry up completely this season…..


KWS seem unwilling or unable to keep cattle out of the park.

Yesterday (Wednesday 26th August) KWS moved in 4 white rhino into Nairobi National Park from Nakuru National Park. (6 more are to be translocated in during the coming weeks, to make a total of 10.) Is this sensible when 2 BLACK rhinos have died of anthrax, a bacteria which lives in the ground & is dispersed in dry conditons?

White rhinos are of course GRAZING animals, very susceptible to anthrax spores…..


Birding With Brian Finch

On 2nd March 2009, I spent the day in Nairobi National Park. There
were a couple of surprises, but basically the birds that have been
with us for most of this year, are still with us, and the population
was stagnant, there being no evidence of any northward passage. Birds
on the dams continue to fall in numbers in line with the drop in water
level, although the variety is still good.

There were numerous Blackcaps on the way to Ivory Burning Site, and a
few Willow Warblers were calling near the entrance. At least six
Nightingales were at the picnic area, the male Irania still present
and active in its usual territory, but shows no interest in singing
now. Only one Upcher’s Warbler was present in the Acacias. The morning
was bright and sunny, Scaly and Crested Francolins were calling from
the scrub and simultaneously Shelley’s Francolin was calling from the
grassland lower down.
The back road was quiet, apart from two more Nightingales the only
other migrant being the first of nine Red-tailed Shrikes (only one
isabellinus) recorded today. In scrubby growth to the right, opposite
the “pumphouse” there was a Broad-tailed Warbler calling, and my
personal second only Beautiful Sunbird in the Park, a stunning adult
male, was in the same locality (the acacia gerardii that forms a
canopy over the road) as my first, late last year. There was nothing
of any interest at the back of Hyena Dam, and little at the dam itself
apart from an African Water Rail in the marshy opening, but the
resident Eurasian Marsh Harrier female was in residence, and also a
single overflying Yellow Wagtail, Taking the track from the dam along
the run-off there was a male Pallid Harrier and ten Athi Short-toed
Larks, plus the first of only three Lesser Kestrels seen. There were
single Northern Wheatear and Whinchat on the way to Karen Primary
School Dam where there were single Green and Wood Sandipers and a
Greenshank. On the way to the bone dry Eland Hollow Dam were single
Northern and Isabelline Wheatears and a Rosy-breasted Longclaw in full
breeding dress. Zitting, Desert and Pectoral-patch Cisticolas were all
singing in this area. At the burnt area beyond the “Beacon” were
Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers, a pair of Temminck’s Coursers, a
Black-winged Plover, two Northern and an Isabelline Wheatear. At the
Ruai Dam junction was a Kori Bustard and the usual resident
Lilac-breasted Roller. Descending from the ridge into Athi Basin there
were fifteen Athi-short-toed Larks (and another ten south of the dam),
a White-tailed Lark and another breeding plumage Rosy-breasted
Longclaw as was a male Pangani Longclaw. Athi Dam level is still
falling, there are less waterbirds now although it is still
interesting. Three Pink-backed Pelicans, single Great Cormorant and
Red-knobbed Coot, only two White Stork, no interesting ducks, Ruff
down to 45, 20 Little Stint, 8 Marsh and 4 Common Sandpipers, one
Greenshank completed the palearctic waders, whilst African residents
were fifteen Black-winged Stilts, five Spur-winged and merely a single
Kittlitz’s Plover. The white-wing Marsh Harrier rested in the shade
all the time I was there. Towards the Cement Factory, I heard an Olive
Tree Warbler singing, and managed to get a photo and video by sitting
in the vehicle and waiting for it to reveal itself. This is a very
rare migrant to the Park, and I was most surprised to find a second
bird only a hundred metres further down the road. Whilst it is
possible that these represent passage migrants from the south, in view
of the unusual dry country migrants that have wintered this year,
maybe these two have been staying in the area. Towards Cheetah Gate I
found eight Crimson-rumped Waxbills and a Vitelline Masked Weaver in
full breeding plumage, on Rhino Circuit was nothing other than an
Olivaceous Warbler (all three grey Hippolais species being recorded
today). Nothing more was recorded until the Mbagathi bridge below
Leopard Cliffs, where there was a single Mountain Wagtail, an adult
Steppe Eagle flying over from Kitengela and Kingfisher Picnic Site had
but a single Northern Wheatear in the area. On the forest edge towards
Langata Gate were single female Eurasian Marsh Harrier, a dark Common
Buzzard and a pair of Nairobi Pipit, whilst the Crowned Cranes are
still incubating on the small dam sharing it with a young Little
Grebe. Quailfinch were scarce with not many in evidence from areas
where they had been recently numerous, Barn Swallows were also in very
small numbers, but Cinnamon-chested Buntings were still in good
Mammals were so impressive, there even seems to be more than on the
recent better days. There was a lioness stalking Zebra, actually on
the main road near “Lone Tree” using the fringe of taller grass to
conceal it. Domestic mammal count numbered two groups of fifteen
cattle near the Cement Factory, and a collection of sheep near Rhino
Circuit, areas not much visited now with the closure of Cheetah Gate.
Also forty cattle near Leopard Cliffs, so there is an attempt at
reinvasion but nothing like before. I reported all of these
whereabouts to roving Rangers, and will let the Chief Warden know.
Some interesting migrants must be fated to pass through the Park soon,
it’s just a matter of being here when they pay their visit.