A lion has been killed today. His sin is escaping from the Nairobi National Park, and it was the fourth time a lion escaped from the park creating public anxiety and concern. The first time such an escape happened the public united with KWS and there was no “story” to write home about. When the incident happened the third time, a conspiracy theory emerged to the effect that someone is targeting to grab Nairobi National Park. Here is how he put it:
Let lions escape from the National Park. They will definitely create fear and anxiety in the public. After a few escapes the lions will kill a few people, causing them to demand that the Park be shut down. After the Park is shut down it will be only a matter of time before papers are crafted and new owners of the Nairobi National Park identified – Private Developers. Skyrocketing buildings complete with shopping malls, supermarkets, children play grounds, flashy offices, and residential apartments will be erected. Industrial and business parks won’t be left behind. The revenue that will be collected by these supposed crooks will be in the multibillions.
To lend credence to this theory, many Kenyans are wondering why is it that only lions are escaping from the park yet the park is home to several other animals including the Giraffes, Rhinos, Zebras, Antelopes, Baboons, Buffalos, Leopards and over 100 other mammal species. According to my interaction with Nakuru National Park and Ruma National Park, Baboons, Buffalos and Leopards are also extremely mobile and likely to escape when given a chance.
Given that no other big five animal has escaped from the Park in the last four incidences, then it is indeed very questionable why only lions, the most dangerous of the cats, have been escaping from the Park. The reason KWS decided to kill the lion that escaped from the Park today has been stated that the lion attempted to kill a man at the Isinya Kajiado road, a man who later succumbed to injuries. The lion, KWS said, was a wild one.
Now, if someone is hell-bent to grab Nairobi National Park, he will need to gamble a lot. He would need to organise with his guys deep within KWS to orchestrate the release of lions to the public, not once or twice but several times since simply looking the way won’t work. Looking the other way may lead to antelopes escaping, which may turn to be sweet meat to the public. Specifically lions or other fear causing animals must be released. The first two or three releases must be such that the non-wild ones are released so that a conversation is started. The non-wild lions may be released once or twice, but at the third release or fourth release the lions chosen should be a bit wild, so that the public starts to panic – and by the time the very wild very hungry lions are released to devour a significant number of the people, the plan shall have worked.
Although at that time the public will be in uproar demanding the government to thoroughly seal all the escape routes, the government will respond by saying that it is the National Park that is unsafe (studies are there to back this up), and the best thing to do is to shut down the National Park and relocate the animals to other Parks e.g. Maasai Mara or the Tsavo. And the plan shall have worked – the 29,000 acres of land occupied by Nairobi National Park shall have been grabbed.
But there is another theory I have just concocted – the need to relocate Nairobi National Park
The presence of a park within the city environs has posed many challenges to the government especially when it comes to the implementation of grand projects like the construction of roads and now the SGR. For the Southern bypass to have been constructed, the road had to pass through the National Park before joining Mombasa Road. The SGR also has no other suitable place to pass except through the park, unless we are willing to spend shs 17 billion more to have the SGR forgo the Park. It therefore means that the more we will want to connect Northern/Western Kenya to the Coastal region through Nairobi, that land occupied by the National Park will always create a formidable challenge.
Apart from road and rail constructions, the population of Nairobi has also increased remarkably from the time the Park was established in 1946 to date. By 1946, the population of Nairobi was a meagre 120,000 people who posed close to zero human-wildlife conflict. This population has increased to about 6 million, millions that have put tremendous pressure on the available resources including land. The government needs land to build for these people houses, to construct bypasses in order to decongest the city, and to also relocate some offices to a new land area in order to expand the city capacity. The fact that Nairobi cannot bear more of the human population pressure is daily seen by the never ending nightmare caused by traffic congestion. A friend told me that even if the government wanted to constructed over passes along Mombasa Road, the government lacks the land to operate from, and the best place it could get this land is occupied by the Nairobi National Park.
The question is, should the Park go?
According to an article by Glen Hyman written in April 2013, the growth of human population and the human activities around the park, including encroachment of industrial activities, road constructions and establishment of hotels and small towns, “wildlife are increasingly killed along the heavily trafficked roads that now surround the park; while fence vandalism, illegal encroachment, and bush-meat poaching are other urban problems faced by park managers” making National Park had become unmanageable. As Hyman concludes his article, he leaves it open for stakeholders to think of relocating the Park further down south to leave the land currently occupied by the Park for urban development – as, the Park itself is under threat and it is a matter of time before it becomes past tense.
If the government read his article and bought in its reasoning, then the lions escaping from Nairobi National Park could be a conversation starter where you and me will be conditioned to accept that facts (and they are hard facts I can’t wish away) that:
- Nairobi needs to expand
- Expanding Nairobi through construction of roads such as the Southern by pass and the SGR negatively impact and will likely kill Nairobi National Park
- We therefore either kill the Park safely or relocate it to a safer region.
By question is, given that the population of Kenya especially that of Nairobi is not set to start dwindling anytime soon as we still have rural urban migration and uncontrolled births, shouldn’t we be thinking of relocating the city instead of the Park? Proposals have been put forth to the effect that we should think of making towns such as Isiolo or Machakos the capital cities. Will relocating the city to a town like Isiolo help preserve Nairobi National Park?
Back to lions escaping from the park – if this is the trick the government is using to make us demand for the park to be shut down, then I think it is very unethical – very unethical to play around with people’s lives. The government should just start a reasoned fact based discussion across the media houses then engage experts in closed door meetings to find ways out of the nightmare that is Nairobi. Maybe the best thing that can help Nairobi is for all government offices and headquarters to get out of Nairobi and head straight to Isiolo.
By the way, Nairobi National Park is the only park within a city environment globally, and there is a reason other cities across the globe do not have and probably will never want a natural park near them.