Why Nairobi National Park is on its deathbed
Blood everywhere was all villagers of Kajiado North saw when they woke up one morning last year. Eric Tiampati will not forget that bloodbath. Sheep carcasses were strewn all over the village.
In total, 103 sheep had been killed over night by a pack of hyenas suspected to be from Nairobi, Amboseli or Tsavo national parks near his home in Kajiado North Sub-County. “We were told the wild animals were dumped in Kajiado from one of the parks, but they have become a great threat to our livestock,” he tells HealthyNation.
Three months ago, two people were killed by marauding elephants in Merueshi, Kajiado East Sub-County. Every now and then, lions get out of the parks and terrorise people along their path. “When there is drought, they get out of the park in search of food, sometimes they get into people’s houses,” says Tiampati.
But, Kajiado residents have decided they will not take the attacks lying down any longer. “If they (hyenas) attack, let’s say one sheep, we poison the carcass and put it in their path. Once they eat this, they’ll die,” says a villager who did not wish to be named.
This is neither the first nor the last incident of human-wildlife conflict in Kajiado County and elsewhere. The animals are in distress. Feeling trapped and with their habitats threatened, they now invade homes and farms. The result has been conflict.
The only park within a city and other wildlife parks may be facing weightier trouble than pastoralists and poaching. Nairobi National Park may in the next several years become a zoo. “The greatest threat to wildlife right now is infrastructure and human development. Land grabbing, fragmentation, fencing and developments on the southern side of Nairobi National Park will soon convert the park to a zoo,” says Director of Operations at East African Wildlife Society Daniel Letoiye.
A threat to wildlife is a threat to life as we know it. If wildlife is no longer able to migrate, plants will also be adversely affected. This is because in their movement, wild animals disperse seeds of different plants including grass.
During migration, the animals also till land by digging with their hooves and manure it, as well as prune shrubs. As a result, there is healthy vegetation cover and small animals thrive, water penetrates the soil, and biodiversity is improved.
It is Saturday afternoon when HealthyNation finds Tiampati herding his 63 cattle on the Southern Bypass outside the Nairobi National Park. But, he cannot allow the livestock to enter the park because he knows the consequences all too well.
“The park is government property and if we graze there, we will be in trouble,” says Tiampati, adding that they take their livestock anywhere there is grass, including to Tanzania, but not inside the national parks.
But others are not afraid, and graze inside protected areas. Illegal entry with livestock into national parks and game reserves form the bulk of breach of protected areas at 52 per cent, according to data from WildlifeDirect.
Between 2016 and 2017, there were 650 cases of illegal entry with livestock in national parks.
But, Tiampati and other pastoralists may not be the number one threat to wildlife survival in the country.
Letoiye says the southern side of the park is the only open migratory corridor for wildlife to and from Nairobi National Park.
This is because office buildings, factories and estates line the northern, eastern and western sides, blocking the crucial routes. But the southern corridor is also becoming narrower.
On the southern side, high-end estates and commercial buildings dot the landscape. A few kilometres away, over the horizon, are Syokimau, Kitengela and Athi River towns, which are growing exponentially and eating into Naretunoi Conservancy.
The “sheep and goats” conservancy, as Mr Letoiye calls it, is highly threatened and may soon disappear because of these towns.
It is the only avenue remaining for wildlife to roam freely from the park to Amboseli National Park, a home to at least 3,000 elephants, further south towards Tanzania, and vice versa.
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