Nairobi National Park facelift to attract more tourists — state

CAS denies reports roads within park will be tarmacked, no comment on fencing

In Summary

• Tourism CAS says ministry has grand plans in place to improve all the national parks and reserves managed by KWS and county governments. 

• Conservationists raised concerns saying facelift was a knee-jerk reaction with no consultations. 

Tourism CAS Joseph Boinnet poses for a photo with the family of the late KWS Director of Parks Julius Kimani.
Tourism CAS Joseph Boinnet poses for a photo with the family of the late KWS Director of Parks Julius Kimani.
Image: Gilbert Koech



The government has defended its plans to renovate the Nairobi National Park, saying the facelift will attract more tourists. 

Tourism Chief Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinnet denied claims that main roads within the park will be tarmacked. 

"What was reported off the mark," Boinnet said. 

Boinnet spoke when he represented CS Najib Balala at the Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters along Lang'ata Road during this year's Conservation Heroes’ Day celebrations. 

The day celebrates fallen conservation champions. 

Boinnet said the ministry has grand plans in place to improve all national parks and reserves that are managed by KWS and county governments.

He said the collaboration was aimed at improving attractiveness.

Biodiversity will be maintained for the parks to be conducive for wildlife, Boinnet said. "Security will also be improved to eliminate the possibility of human-wildlife conflict." 

The facelift, Boinnet said, seeks to enhance visitors' experience. He said not much has been done in some of the parks such as the Nairobi National Park. 

On Friday, conservationists raised concerns after reports that the park would be fenced and roads tarmacked. 

Boinnet did not comment on the fencing claims.

Conservationists said the plans to fence it will turn it into a naturalistic zoo.

KWS on Friday did not deny or confirm this report. 

"We have a meeting between the ministry, the board and senior management of KWS to discuss this matter. We will provide you with the way forward immediately after," KWS board chairman John Waithaka told the Star through a text message.

One conservationist said, "It’s just another kneejerk reaction, no consultation, and no engagement with experts or park neighbours or communities. The consequences will be another Nakuru debacle–inbreeding, population explosions and crashes." 

KWS said it has pegged the grand plans on two documents–the National Wildlife Strategy and Tourism Blueprint 2030, which are aimed at transforming some 10 parks to major tourist destinations. 

This, the source said, will turn the Nairobi National Park into a premier park to serve as a success in conservation.

 "The initial plan is to revamp some of the 10 parks as premier destinations. The major plan is to begin with Nairobi National Park with discussions being centred on how to transform it. However, I have not heard about the fencing bit," he said. The source said the park is a seasonal migratory park. 

"Wildlife move in and out. During the dry period, the park is a major source of water. If it is fenced, this migration will be stopped." 

Balala could not be reached on Friday.

Already, an SGR line cuts through the park in what conservationists said will cause irreparable damage.

The park is the oldest national park in Kenya, gazetted in 1946 by the colonial government.

In the 19th Century, the park was part of an expansive Savannah plain in the southern part of the now Nairobi city.

The area had so much wildlife spreading all the way to the airport. It is said that sometimes, planes landing at the JKIA would be delayed to drive wildlife from the runaway.

It is the only remaining park near a city centre in the whole world.

Nairobi National Park is only approximately seven kilometres south of the centre of Nairobi metropolis. It covers 117.21 square kilometres (28,963 acres) and is small compared to most of Kenya’s and Africa's national parks.  

It is surrounded by an electric wire fence in some sections although the southern parts are not fenced to allow wildlife migration. 

The proximity of urban and natural environments has caused conflicts between the carnivores (especially lions) and local Maasai pastoralists in the neighbourhood. They have, however, happily embraced the park despite the challenge. 

On several occasions, Kenyans have been stunned to find lions in the city outskirts which have strayed from the park. 

A few days ago, a lion suspected to have been after prey killed a man near Ongata Rongai in Kajiado county. 

Boinnet said compensation for the affected victims will be fast-tracked.

Edited by R.Wamochie

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