I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own.
Nairobi national park is unique in a lot of ways but the most popular is that it is the only national park in a city. You have three options… a game drive, a walk at the Nairobi safari walk or a visit to the animal orphanage. Personally, I do not visit the orphanage because I do not like seeing wild animals in cages. You see, I live in Laikipia, a place where wildlife roams freely in and out of conservation areas so it would not make sense for me to pay a few shilling just so I can see some sad looking lions in a confined space ( no offense)
I made my maiden game drive to the park on 31st st December 2017 with my sister and nephews who given a choice would have preferred to go to a mall. After making the payments, we ventured into the park hoping not to get lost (not sure if there is an option to take a guide and at what cost).
Different people have different experiences from the great Nairobi National park but this is what stood out for me…
- The cityscape
I have seen beautiful photos of rhinos and giraffes with a backdrop of the city from different photographers and I have always thought it is pretty cool. I can confidently report now that it is way cooler when you are there to see it for yourself. There was a giraffe on the tarmac that made sure we knew who had a right of way. My nephew was upset that we were too close to it yet the park rules stated that we should not get too close to the animals.
- The people
Every one we encountered in the park was amazing and genuinely excited to be there. Different people stopped us to find out if we had spotted any lions. Sadly we did not see any on that day. One person tried to convince us that if we followed him we would see some elephants but the truth is all wild elephants were trans-located from the park to avoid incidents of human wildlife conflict. Elephants are generally migratory creatures so you can imagine what would happen if they were to move around in the city. If you want to see elephants, you would have to settle for the calves at the David Sheldrick wildlife trust which is open to the public everyday between 11 AM-12 Noon through the KWS central workshop gate opposite Multimedia University.
We may have not been lucky with the lions but we saw many ostriches, lone male impalas which got me wondering why the impalas at Nairobi national park do not form bachelor herds and prefer to go it alone and lots of other animals.
- Ivory burn site
Kenya, under the leadership of president Moi, burned about 10 tonnes of ivory stock pile in 1989. This was a desperate measure to devalue ivory and send a message to the international community that ivory was only valuable when attached to a living elephant. Shortly after the ivory burn, international ivory trade was banned under CITES (Convention on international trade in endangered species). You can read more here.
In 2016 president Kenyatta presided over the biggest ivory burn in Kenya at the Nairobi National park next to the 1989 site. At the site, there is white ash from both ‘ceremonies’ which is equivalent to over 120 tonnes of ivory. There is a warning not to collect the ash from the site as it is a symbol of Kenya’s commitment to elephant conservation.
How effective burning or crushing ivory is to conservation efforts is debatable. I wish someone would come back to after a year or two and tell us if there has been any change, decrease or increase of elephant poaching or if we still have people trafficking ivory through our airports. There was a lot of hype and debates on this topic and I wish someone keeps the conversation going so we know whether we are making progress or not and what can be done better.
There is a bench at the site which was probably donated by a well wisher in memory of someone but when my nephew saw it he thought someone actually died there…
- Too close to wildlife?
A while back, national geographic posted a photo of a hyena carrying a glass bottle photographed at the Kruger National park in South Africa. The caption read ‘one of the saddest things to witness in nature is man’s impact of the wild. Careless people don’t realize the impact of their trash on wildlife’
This reminded me of another post by Olpejeta Conservancy of a beer bottle probably thrown out from a moving vehicle inside the park. The Facebook post referred to the person that threw it as a moron but instead of seeing the bigger picture, people chose to call out Olpejeta for calling a paying customer a moron. I have expressed my feelings over litter over and over again and yet everywhere I go it never gets better if the two incidents are anything to go by.
Nairobi national park was no different. As we exited the park, we came across this pack of baboons by the road. In this group there was a little one playing around with a plastic soda bottle. Another monkey at the parking lot was licking off the remains from a yoghurt container and what made me angrier was there was a father who got too close and seemed to be encouraging his child to get close to the monkey. There was another one was on a roof with a plastic bag. Every one including the park rangers went about their business which made me feel like I was the only one who was bothered by this situation. My two cent is Nairobi National park should invest in better trash cans which won’t be accessible to the monkeys or better still, go the Karura forest way by banning all plastic bags and containers from the park.
Don’t be the kind of person that travels just to tick off some destination off their bucket list, don’t be the kind of traveler that has no respect for their environment…travel because you genuinely want to connect with nature and make the world a better place by leaving each place better than you found it
That said, it gets really frustrating seeing the same litter problem in all the conservation areas I visit. This is a replica of what happens in our everyday environment and this is not going to change unless we make personal efforts, educate our children on the impact of litter on our environment and speak up against this vice.
Please note that cash is not an acceptable mode of payment at the gate so please carry your card or load your MPESA.
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Thanks for reading.
Take care of your environment.