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February 20, 2018

Nairobi Park Diary: Food for life

An Ostrich enjoys salad
An Ostrich enjoys salad

We all need energy to survive in the world. In nature, plant eating wild animals can only survive and thrive if there is enough flora, such as grasses, leaves and stems. They need this to give them enough nutrition and energy to sustain them through the annual cycles of dry and wet seasons. It is literally “food for life”, also known as biomass.

The total amount of potential food energy available in kilograms per square kilometre is also known as the biomass. In the Nairobi National Park, scientific studies have been conducted in the past (JB Voster and MJ Coe from 1960-66) to determine the estimated sustainable biomass of the Nairobi National Park. In the dry season, the biomass was estimated to be about 5,690kg per sq/km, and in the wet peak season, it was as high as 12,775kg per sq/km.

Optimum biomass is also known as the carrying capacity, or the amount of species that can live in the park without downgrading the ecosystem. This is very important for the park, as the total area is only 117 sq/km, and the herds cannot migrate as before due to blocked ancient seasonal routes. Naturally, the herbivores like zebra, eland, wildebeest, coke’s hartebeest, impala and buffalo also attract interest in predators when they prefer to feed in certain parts of the park.

In my experience, the Kingfisher area plains, Eland valley, and the Athi basin are typical areas where the soil type is fertile and able to sustain larger populations of herbivores and associated predators like lions, leopards and hyenas. When visiting the park, try to focus on the areas where the herbivores are feeding, and sooner or later, you could be rewarded with a predator sighting.


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