Unique Kenyan Game Park Under Human Threat

Written by  //  January 1, 2008  //  Africa, Environment & Energy, Sustainable Development  //  No comments

As we worry about the outcome of the elections in Kenya and the resultant riots, the undermining of democracy and prospects for tribal warfare, the controversy over urban encroachment on Nairobi National Park goes virtually unremarked. Yet, it deserves attention as it is symbolic of the tensions between conservation and poverty alleviation.

KITENGELA, Kenya – A short distance from the slums and skyscrapers of Nairobi, Naanyu Ntirrisa pulls thorn bushes around her Maasai village to keep out marauding lions that have killed a cow and two sheep. … Across a river from the village, tourists in Land Rovers photograph giraffes munching on acacia thorns, with the city’s towers visible in the distance.
They are enjoying the charms of Nairobi National Park, the closest of its kind to a capital city in the world, where visitors can grab a quick safari during a business trip and airlines even take stopover passengers out for a game drive. … The park hosts one of the largest concentrations of the rare black rhino in Kenya and lions and even cheetahs can still be seen — with a bit of luck. Yet, where plains were once black with thousands of wildebeest on the scale of the famous Maasai Mara migration further south, scarcely a hundred now roam.
The pressure of human expansion is posing a deadly threat to the park, Kenya’s oldest, and has led to bad-tempered rows between wildlife organisations, Maasai groups and a microfinance institution trying to help slum dwellers.
The most passionate dispute focuses on a clutch of red roofs sprouting on the windswept plains south of the park, where wild animals and Maasai herdsmen roam.
They mark the first stage of a township where 10,000 residents from Nairobi’s huge, squalid slums will live. The town is the brainchild of Ingrid Munro, a Swedish woman who has devoted her life to helping Kenya’s poor.
Munro runs Jamii Bora, Kenya’s largest microfinance institution. After winning five years of legal battles, Jamii Bora began construction of Kaputiei town last May.
An alliance of the government Kenya Wildlife Service, conservation NGOs and one Maasai group vows to continue the battle, saying the town will destroy the traditional way of life in the area, increase crime, pollute water supplies with sewage and block the corridor by which animals enter the park.
Most of the animals roam on the much bigger plains and come into the park through the open southern boundary for water in its 12 dams during the dry season, but their route is increasingly restricted by fences and settlement. More
Planet Ark
by Barry Moody
Story Date: 2/1/2008

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