The unsung hero: Mervyn Cowie

An encounter with a lioness taught him man and beast can live in harmony

In Summary

• He masterminded the protection and conservation of Kenya's wildlife and wilderness 

Portrait of Mervyn Cowie
Portrait of Mervyn Cowie

Col Mervyn Hugh Cowie was born in Nairobi in 1909, living in a hut on a farm at Kiambu, north-west of Nairobi.

Before moving to Kenya, his father was chief magistrate of Johannesburg. Mervyn studied Law and Accountancy at Oxford University.

An incident happened to teach him that man and beast can live in harmony. One day, while passing a lioness in the Nairobi National Park, he came off his motorbike. The bike pinned him to the ground as the lioness lay watching him and he was unable to move, with blood was oozing from a cut in his leg.

The curious lioness walked towards him pinned under a lump of metal, and stopped just a few feet away. The lioness sat down as they stared at each other for some minutes, while young Mervyn prayed that the smell of petrol was greater than the smell of his own blood.

Eventually the lioness got up and walked off. Cowie was to later say the incident made him grow up very quickly. He realised that man and beast need not spend their time killing each other.

"But first, man must learn to suppress his desire to kill, and beast must be afforded a place to live," he said.

He then tirelessly began to pursue the colonial government to set aside national parks in Kenya, starting with the Nairobi National Park.

 Towards the end of 1945, the government established national parks and appointed trustees. Cowie was appointed executive director.

In December 1946, the Nairobi Park was established and later the Tsavo National Park, Aberdare and Mount Kenya parks, Amboseli and many others, including the Serengeti in Tanzania.

History records that he masterminded the protection and conservation of Kenya's wildlife and wilderness areas. I pray that modern conservation efforts will continue to keep Kenya’s God-given natural heritage intact for future generations.

The park is open daily from 06h00 to 19h00.

For more information on the park you can link to the following website

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