Location: 7 km (4 mi) South of Nairobi Map
Area: 117 km2 (45 sq mi)
Open: 6am- 7pm daily
Nairobi National Park is a nature reserve situate 7 km (4 mi) South of Nairobi capital of Kenya. This protected biosphere is the first national park and protects an area of 117 km2 (45 sq mi).
Safari Walk Animal Orphanage
Open: 8am- 6pm daily Open: 8am- 6pm daily
Feeding: 1pm- 2pm daily
British colonists arrived in the area where the park is located at the
end of the 19th century. At this time, the Athi plains east and
south of where Nairobi today is located had diverse wildlife. The
Masai nomadic people lived and herded cattle in the wild. The Kikuyu
people cultivated tree-lined highlands above today's Nairobi.
Conservationist Mervyn Cowie was born in Nairobi. Returning to Kenya after a nine-year absence in 1932, he was alarmed to see a decrease in the number of game on the Athi plains. The expansion of farms and livestock crowded out hunting grounds. He later recalled this place as a paradise that quickly disappeared. During this time, the area that later became Nairobi National Park was part of the southern Hunting Reserve. Hunting was officially banned, but almost any activity, including grazing cattle, landfills, and even bombing the British Air Force was allowed. Mervyn Cowie began a campaign to establish a national park system in Kenya. Thanks to his efforts, the Government of Kenya has formed a committee to consider this issue.
Officially opened in 1946, Nairobi National Park became Kenya's first national park. The Masai herders were expelled from their lands when the park was created. Mervyn Cowie became director of Nairobi National Park and held this position until 1966. In 1989, Kenyan President Daniel Moye burned twelve tons of ivory in the park. This event boosted Kenya’s image in wildlife conservation.
The park covers an area of 117.21 square kilometers (28,963 acres) and is relatively small compared to most of the national parks in Africa. The park’s height ranges from 1,533 meters (5,030 feet) and 1,760 meters (5,774 feet). The park has a dry climate. The park is located 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the center of Nairobi. An electric fence was made around the northern part of the park, the eastern and western borders. The fence that separates the park from the city is one of the airport exits. The southern border of the park is the Mbagati River. This border is not fenced and is open, allowing large species of animals to migrate. Also in the park there are deep stony valleys and gorges.
The park is dominated by an open plain with rare acacia bushes. On the western elevation of the park dry alpine forests grow, where African Olive, Croton, Brahilena and Calodendrum meet. The lower slopes of this area are used as pastures where Themeda, cypress, Digitaria, Cynodon and acacia yellow-bark are found. In the southern part of the park, river forests grow along the rivers. Acacias and Euphorbia candelabrum mainly grow in the valleys. Also in the park there are Apodytes dimidiata, Canthium schimperiana, Elaeodendron buchananii, ficus, Aspilia mossambicensis, sumy and Newtonia. The plants of Euphorbia brevitorta, Drimia calcarata, and Murdannia clarkeana, which grow on rocky slopes, are unique to this area of Nairobi.
Nairobi National Park is home to: African buffalo, monkeys, black rhinoceros, Burchell zebra, cheetah, common bubal, Grant gazelle, Thomson gazelle, wildebeest, hippo, leopard, lion, canna, impala, Masai giraffe, ostrich, vulture and water goat. Herbivores use Kitengela's protected hunting grounds and the migration corridor south of the park to reach the Athi-Kapiti plains. They scatter across the plains during the rainy season and return to the park in the dry season. The concentration of wildlife in the park is highest in the dry season when areas outside the park have dried up. Small dams built along the Mbagathi River provide water to the park, which attracts water-dependent herbivores during the dry season. The park is home to a wide variety of bird species, up to 400 permanent and migratory species. Dams create an artificial habitat for birds and animals that depend on water.
Mervyn Cowey watched the development of several national parks in Kenya and developed tourism in them, which helped to make the tourism industry in Kenya one of the main ones. However, this exacerbated the problems between the local population and wildlife. Local residents received very little benefit from commercial wildlife hunting. Farmers living near the parks did not have access to the parks. Livestock were threatened by lions, and some landowners were against the national park. In 1948, the population of Nairobi was 188,976, and by 1997 the population of the city had grown to 1.5 million. The park began to feel pressure due to the growing population of the city and its need for agricultural land. People live right on the border of the park, which creates conflicts between humans and wildlife. The large population of Nairobi also pollutes the environment. Sewage and industrial wastes from factories located along the northern border of the park pollute the surface of the park and underground groundwater systems.
Agreements with the Masai people in 1904 and 1911 forced them to leave all their northern pastures on the lands of Laikipia near Mount Kenya. Some of the people who lost land moved to the Kitengela plains. Today, the Kitengela plains are divided into ranch groups and part of the land was sold to farmers of the Kikuyu people. People living here suffer from the presence of predators. Part of the park’s revenue is used in collaborative projects for people living on the Kitengela plains to benefit from the presence of the national park. The Masai landowners formed the Kitengela Landowners Association, which works with the Kenyan Wildlife Conservation Service to both protect wildlife and find benefits for local residents.
The National Park and the Athi-Kapiti plains are interconnected by movements of large populations of wild herbivores. The plains south of the park are important nutrient areas during the rainy season. Before Nairobi appeared, herds of animals followed the rains and crossed the plains from Mount Kilimanjaro to Mount Kenya. However, as the city grew, the park became the northernmost limit of animal movement. Migrating animals can reach their southern pastures by traveling through some of the Athi plains called Kitengela. This land is very important for their travel routes, but population growth and land demand threatens to cut off this traditional travel route from the park. Migratory species of animals of the park are also threatened by the possibility of their resettlement, fencing, proximity to Nairobi and other industrial cities. All these actions fragment ecosystems and occupy their habitat.
Tourism and education
Nairobi National Park is the main attraction for guests of the capital of the country. Attractions include a variety of bird species, cheetah, hyena, leopard and lion. Other attractions include migrations of wildebeest and zebra in July and August, as well as a monument to the site of the burnt Ivory, a safari walk and an animal shelter.
The Park Wildlife Education Center offers lectures and videos on the wildlife of the park and excursions to the animal shelter. These tours are primarily intended for schooling and local communities. The Kenya Wildlife Service offers a safari walk that highlights the diversity of plants and animals found in Kenya and its impact on the country's population.