Tag Archives: nairobi national park

Why Nairobi lions are heading to residential areas

On March 18 this year, Cheru, a male lion, ‘escaped’ out of Nairobi National Park and wandered onto the chaotic Mombasa Rd, one of the major arterials that is almost always congested with traffic. He clawed a man- and then let the man go free- and was then captured shortly after by Kenya Wildlife Service and returned safely back to the park, which sits at the border of the bustling metropolis.

In the month prior, 6 other lions had reportedly escaped from the park and were found in the informal settlement area of Kibera and near Langata, near Karen- both residential areas. Many took to social media to express their panic and to also assist the KWS in tracking down these wild cats. Many pleaded not to shoot the lion as had been done once before, which had left orphan cubs in its wake- but instead, deliver him back to the park alive.

It wasn’t until March 30, when another lion, Mohawk, escaped from the park which led to its death. The 13-year-old male lion of Nairobi National Park and a popular tourist favourite, endured torment and heckling by crowds for hours in Kajiado county where he was found. The 13-year-old lion was cornered and surrounded by a large rowdy mob of roughly 400 people, for up to 6 hours, stoned and taunted, and became highly stressed, which drove him to swat a man on a motorbike- prompting a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger to shoot him 9 times.

The first KWS team that was dispatched to contain the situation, interestingly, only had rifles. The second team were on their way with tranquilisers, but Mohawk was shot before they arrived. The fact that rangers arrived 6 hours after the first report of Mohawk’s location came in raises further questions- Kajiado is only 30kms away from the Nairobi NP headquarters, and even with traffic, southbound, they would have arrived far faster than the time that they did.

Lions escaping Nairobi NP has not happened like this before with such frequency and in such numbers. The park, gazetted in 1946 by British settlers, is the oldest national park in Kenya, but sadly one that is under threat due to the need to manage the rapid development of this fast-growing nation. A railway is currently being built through the park to improve trade routes from Mombasa to Nairobi and neighbouring countries. The noisy construction work is assumed to be driving lions out through an open migratory corridor in the south. The livestock that they find in the villages also draws them out of the park. It may only be a matter of time before another lion escapes, which could ultimately lead to its unnecessary death.

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Extinction means no turning back

Kenya’s multi-billion dollar Standard Gauge Railway project will cut through 2 major national parks in Nairobi and Tsavo. In the largest infrastructure project since Kenya became independent in 1963, replacing the old Ugandan Railway, there’s a lot resting on its success, which is anticipated to massively boost economic development, regional integration, and social and political development.

Set to be completed by 2017, construction is reportedly driving wildlife out of Nairobi NP, which has recently resulted in lost lions and sadly the tragic and public death of 13-year old Mohawk the lion 20 days ago. Soon, construction will run through Tsavo NP, which is home to about 12,000 elephants. The balance between economic development and wildlife conservation appears increasingly difficult to strike with time. Species are fast becoming critically endangered, and some rest dangerously on the precipice of extinction, like the African elephant. If things continue the way they are, it’s expected they’ll be extinct within one generation.

While consultation between key wildlife management authorities, the planning ministries of the government and CBRC, the building contractor, are ongoing- the stark truth must be realised that habitat loss and the displacement of wildlife will catalyse the decreases in population numbers and the anticipated extinction of key species. At that point, the damage will be final. Irreversible, and no turning back. Something that no economic gain will ever be able to help, and will, in fact, represent a reversal of a nation’s development.

Tusks on fire

In under an hour, the largest ivory burn in history will take place. In this symbolic event, 105 tonnes of elephant ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horn will go up in flames in 11 large pyres in Nairobi National Park. World leaders, politicians, conservationists, celebrities and the media are present, and the world watches on as a landmark event in the battle to stop the ivory trade begins. The burn sends a clear message: the ivory has no economic value, and the elephant is worth more alive. It’s time to stop the trade once and for all.

Mohawk

It is with great sadness that I write about Mohawk, a male lion that was shot just over 48 hours ago after he escaped Nairobi National Park. He endured torment and heckling by crowds for hours in Kajiado county before a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger shot him 9 times. The 13-year-old lion was cornered and surrounded by a rowdy mob for 6 hours, stoned and taunted, and became highly stressed, which led him to swat a man on a motorbike- prompting the rangers to fire.

The first KWS team dispatched, interestingly, only had rifles. The second team were on their way with tranquilisers, but Mohawk was shot before they arrived. Moreover, for them to arrive 6 hours after the lion was first reported as being found raises further questions- Kajiado is only 30kms away from the Nairobi NP headquarters, and even with traffic, southbound, they would have arrived far faster than the time that they did.

Lions escaping Nairobi NP has not happened like this before with such frequency and in such numbers. Noisy construction work on a rail project that will cut through the park is assumed to be driving them away through an open migratory corridor in the south. I posted previously about Cheru, another male who had escaped only weeks ago- but I did not expect that a lion would soon lose his life doing so, simply to get to a quieter area.

There had to have been a better way. If any animal is stressed, it will react. Controlling the group, and educating society on the need to stay away from a wild creature, and not provoke it, is paramount to ensure safety for all. This death didn’t have to happen. But it did, and by it, we are all diminished.

Escape

Yet another lion was on the loose in Nairobi today. The lion, named Cheru, ‘escaped’ out of Nairobi National Park and wandered onto the chaotic Mombasa Rd, one of the major arterials that are almost always congested with traffic. He clawed a man- and then let the man go free- and was then captured shortly after by Kenya Wildlife Service and returned safely back to the park, which sits at the border of the bustling metropolis.

Last month, 6 other lions had reportedly escaped from the park and were found in the informal settlement area of Kibera and near Langata, near Karen- both residential areas. Many took to social media to express their panic and to also assist the KWS in tracking down these wild cats. Many pleaded not to shoot the lion as had been done once before- leaving orphan cubs in its trail- and deliver him back alive.

While the park is fenced on the city side, it has small openings on the south to enable wildlife to migrate through important corridors, which is allegedly where the lions wandered out of.

Gazetted in 1946 by British settlers, it is the oldest national park in Kenya, but sadly one that is under threat due to the need to manage the rapid development of this fast-growing nation. Plans are in place to build a Chinese railway through the park to improve trade routes from Mombasa to Nairobi and neighbouring countries.

While the Government prioritises development, and in the wake of this “escape”, protection of these areas of wilderness becomes all the more paramount. It is clear that we must prioritise the protection of these parks- for it is as much the lions’ land as it is ours.