Just outside the center of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, stretches 117 square kilometers of green space – a national park – a place that is a haven for wildlife. More than 500 species of birds and more than 100 species of mammals have been recorded there. Globally, there are few examples of similar proximity between the nation’s capital and wildlife. Nairobi is known as the “Green City in the Sun.”
Nairobi National Park is the first park in Kenya
Nairobi National Park was established in 1946. As the first such facility in Kenya. It is located on the southern outskirts of the city and, as a reserve, provides refuge for many wild animals, such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffalo and giraffes. Its landscape is dominated by grassy meadows with a small number of sparse dwarf trees. Nairobi National Park is visited in large numbers by foreign and domestic tourists who want to observe Africa’s wildlife, especially to admire the black and white rhinos. Common animals found in the park include zebras, giraffes, ostriches, gazelles, elands, hippos, vultures and lions. Funds from tourism spending are one of the park’s main sources of maintenance.
Nairobi National Park – a park just outside the “Green City in the Sun”
Located at an altitude of 1,795 meters above sea level. Nairobi is known as the “Green City in the Sun,” as it enjoys mild temperatures and a pleasant climate year-round, with much of the area occupied by green spaces. From the point of view of the city’s residents, the national park has an extremely important function as an area that provides clean air and facilitates ventilation (it is the lungs of the city). Researchers have shown that the shade of mature trees helps reduce – especially in poor neighborhoods – dangerous heat islands. Demographically and economically, Nairobi is one of the fastest growing cities in this part of Africa, and the national park is a natural barrier to its free spatial development. Kenya’s capital is the only city in the world adjacent to a wildlife conservation area.
“Nairobi rightly deserves to be called the ‘Green City in the Sun’ because it is a city full of biodiversity, but it is nevertheless highly endangered,” says Nickson Otieno, director of Niko Green, a sustainability company based in Nairobi. – “A few years ago there was an incident – there were lions walking around the streets of the city. This makes us think about infrastructure to give support to us and protect nature at the same time.”
Nairobi National Park faces myriad threats
Experts believe that Nairobi National Park faces a myriad of threats from: human-wildlife conflicts, urban infrastructure development and pollution, and poaching. A railroad runs through the park, and with the rapid development of the city, human habitats are increasingly encroaching on the space set aside for wildlife. Some trees are being cut down for new buildings. In an attempt to minimize tensions between man and nature by fencing off parts of the park from the city, the park is directly adjacent to factories, residential and commercial districts.
“The former director, David Western, suggested that Nairobi National Park should be [całościowo] fenced, which I am personally totally against,” says David Mascall, a conservationist in Nairobi. – “The park would then turn into a zoo, and that would lead to a genetic nightmare. In the area, which is fenced off on all sides, there is no movement of animals, which go outside the park area, pair up with new individuals, reproduce, and return to provide fresh genes. The fence will block anything supplied from within.”
The park, with its attractive tourist attractions, plays an important social, educational and economic role. To sustain its uniqueness, it is essential to preserve the diversity of wildlife in its natural habitat and space to meet the animals’ subsistence needs. This is especially true for predators and rhinos, the tracking and photographing of which is the lifeblood of safari tourism. If the abundance of these species radically declines, a major source of economic maintenance for the park will disappear, and thus an important argument behind maintaining the area in its current form.
J. Adamus, M. Mika, T. Kepski, Agglomeration vs. national park. A difficult relationship in an African setting – the case of Nairobi and Nairobi National Park, Urban Knowledge Conversation 2018, 31(3), pp. 23–30. https://dspace.uni.lodz.pl/bitstream/handle/11089/35062/8603-Tekst_artykulu-22379-1-10-20201113.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (accessed 19.08.2023)