Stripes and High Rises: Diversity

park 11

You could say that Nairobi’s game park begins where the city stops. It is the only city in the world with a natural, unenclosed wildlife reserve on its peripheries: wilderness and urban sprawl side by side. There  is of course an electric fence along the urban perimeter to divide  man from beast, but the city is always pressing against the boundary. To the south the park is open to the Athi and Kapiti Plains to allow migrating herbivores such as wildebeest (there are a couple in the background) to come and go. These grasslands are important feeding grounds in the wet season, and so it is essential for the health and wildlife diversity of the park that the southern corridor remains open.  When we left Nairobi in 2000 there were fears that  it  would soon be closed by encroaching farmers, and community initiatives were being devised to avoid this.

By African game park standards the park is very small, 117 square kilometres, but it supports a breath-taking array of animals – lions, cheetahs, leopards, rhino, all the antelopes, and a host of small game. Only elephants are absent. The birdlife is equally diverse with over 500 species. And despite the proximity of the city, there still are wild places where the  high rises cannot be seen on the skyline. 

There is also another kind of diversity in this photo: the zebra’s stripes. Every individual has its own livery. Once when we were on a game drive on a private ranch in Zambia, our very tipsy guide was insistent that we grasp this fact. “Every zebra’s butticles have different markings,” he declaimed, “so their offspring know how to recognise their mamas.” I have been grateful ever since for that gift of the word  ‘butticle’.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Lost in Translation: Diversity

31 thoughts on “Stripes and High Rises: Diversity

  1. Thank you for sharing. It is a beautiful sight, and indeed the Nairobi park is the only one in the world so close to a city. And thanks for the gift of the word ‘butticle’.

  2. That is a small reserve. I was watching Top Gear ;last night and the ”lads” were in Australia , ostensibly to take part in rounding up 4000 head of cattle using three, 4 wheel drive cars.
    The farm owners usually use helicopters!
    The point: the farm they went to is approximately the size of 5 counties in Southern England!
    Clarkson said it’s like driving from London to Newcastle for a loaf of bread and some ”bog roll”.( his words)

    To put this in a little more perspective: Once they arrived at the front gate it was over a two hour drive up the ”road” to the farm house!

      1. There is a lot of land grabbing going on. There is a by-pass that is being done at the edge of the park and a lot of encroachment that is threatening the life of the park

  3. It is the only city in the world with a natural, unenclosed wildlife reserve… Wow! I didn’t know about it. Thank you for the information. Love this photo!

  4. I’m impressed that Kenya, unlike pretty much every other country I can think of, seems to be making an effort to preserve its wildlife. I always wanted to see Kenya. I’ve read so much about it and known several people who come from there or lived there for quite a while. It’s the only African country I’ve wanted to visit.

    1. Hello, Shimon. Yes, Kenya’s parks, (and Nairobi Park is very tiny compared to most), are amazing places. More amazing still, is that most of Kenya’s wildlife exists outside the parks. Focus is often on elephant poaching alone, which though dire, obscures the fact that the country has immensely rich wildlife, and all is protected by law. You can drive along highways and spot zebra, giraffe, eland, ostrich just out in the bush, and sometimes even elephants.

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