Nairobi Park Diary: The gnu's news

Thirsty wildebeest at the Karen primary dam in March 2009
Thirsty wildebeest at the Karen primary dam in March 2009

It had been dry over much of the park, and then we had some good rain over most of the central and northern part of the park. Within days, fresh green shoots erupted in multitudes of grasses and plants.

It was not long before the herbivores found these green pastures. Approximately 300 eastern white-bearded wildebeest have returned. Wow!

It has been some years since I last saw a large herd of wildebeest far up in the park. What a wonderful sight to see them intermingled with zebra, eland, Coke’s Hartebeest and Thompson’s and Grants Gazelles.

The last time I saw a large herd of wildebeest was in March 2009, when over 1,000 wildebeest were counted in the park at the end of the long drought, when so many cattle died in the park. The wildebeest that come into the Nairobi National Park are the

eastern white-bearded wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus

albojubatus). This is a rare sub-species of gnu, which consists of less than 5,000 individuals east of the Rift Valley.

Wildebeest are known by their nature to migrate over vast distances. In the past, the area now known as the Nairobi National Park often had thousands of them, moving through the park in search of grazing pastures. Naturally the lions also enjoyed this.

Sadly, due to the Nairobi mega-city growing rapidly, the traditional migration routes are being throttled by fences and construction projects. The park is becoming a “green island in a sea of construction”. It will be a very sad occasion if the wildebeest no longer return.

To still see a wildebeest migration so close to Nairobi this year is like a miracle. Thank God they are back again, and is it good news, or should I say, “Gud gnu’s”?

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