As reported in Kenyan media, the Kenya Wildlife Service on Friday 17th June 2015 signed an agreement with the Kenya Railways Corporation and Kenya Lands Commission to allow the corporation to realign the Standard Gauge Railway route to pass through the Nairobi National Park. What this means is that Nairobi National Park will lose 216 acres of land to this project alone.

Kenya Railway gains from this sweet deal by not having to spend money – that it does not have, apparently – to compensate ‘high value’ agricultural and industrial land in Athi River. It is not clear how the conservation value of the park was calculated and determined to be lower than the value of the agricultural and industrial land.

This is not the only park land that KWS has agreed to give away or sell to other corporations this year. Earlier this year, in April, KWS agreed to let the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) build a section of the Nairobi Southern Bypass road through the part and thus hive off some 89 acres of wildlife inhabited land from the 28,963 acres park. The KWS seems to have been persuaded into this deal by a promise that KeNHA would buy some 385 acres of land outside the park’s southern boundary along the Mbagathi Valley in Kajiado County to compensate for the 89 acres annexed in the north. Some of this land is already under conservation easement.

In other land deals that have come to light since protests against the Southern Bypass started are older and include the 2.97 acres lost to the 66KV Kenya Power line along the Bomas/KWS gate, the 25 acres occupied by the 400KV high voltage Ketraco power line pylons, the 30 acres taken by the old and new Kenya oil pipeline and a less than 1 acre taken by Faiba (Jamii Telcom) optic cable. These bring the total of land already taken away by development to about 58 acres. Underground power cables are also being laid inside the park.

From the numbers we know, by the end of this year, some 363 acres of wildlife habitat will have been lost to conservation. All this will happen with some level of consent from the KWS and it leads us to question the commitment of the current board and management of the service to conservation of the world’s only natural wildlife park within the precincts of a city.

In April this year, conservationists’ spirits lifted somewhat when President Uhuru Kenyatta announced in a gazette notice that he had appointed the legendary Dr. Richard Leakey as chairman of the KWS board. Some expected that the entry of Dr. Leakey, famous for wrestling down the great elephant poaching crisis of the late 1980s, would have significant impact on how KWS deals with corporations eying park land for their projects. He himself had said in 2014 that the KWS needed a complete overhaul and new management and his appointment, naturally, was seen as a precursor to this overhaul.

We have not seen the Leakey factor yet. We do hope, however, that he is working behind the scenes to shake things around and keep the integrity of KWS-controlled conservation land. History, however, does not support this hope – as far as our beloved little park is concerned – since Dr. Leakey is not known to leave his work ‘behind the scenes’. Case in point, he convinced former President Moi to lead the first ever ivory burn in the world in 1989 – a very public gesture.

How the KWS board and management handle the threats that the Nairobi National Park faces due to the city’s hunger for land will determine if we will indeed have a park at all in the end. From the signs, and how fast KWS is signing deals to cede valuable conservation land, we do not know if it is safe to trust KWS with this task.

Can We Trust KWS with Nairobi Park?http://kijanimedia.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/griraffe-heads-e1414741011813.jpghttp://kijanimedia.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/griraffe-heads-150x150.jpg Sam Maina Conservation
As reported in Kenyan media, the Kenya Wildlife Service on Friday 17th June 2015 signed an agreement with the Kenya Railways Corporation and Kenya Lands Commission to allow the corporation to realign the Standard Gauge Railway route to pass through the Nairobi National Park. What this means is that...
<a href="http://localhost/kijaniwp/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/griraffe-heads-e1414741011813.jpg"><img class="alignnone wp-image-74 size-full" src="http://localhost/kijaniwp/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/griraffe-heads-e1414741011813.jpg" alt="" width="500" height="125" /></a> As reported in Kenyan media, the Kenya Wildlife Service on Friday 17th June 2015 signed an agreement with the Kenya Railways Corporation and Kenya Lands Commission to allow the corporation to <a href="http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Deal-sealed-to-have-new-railway-cut-through-Nairobi-park/-/539546/2792858/-/u97qh4z/-/index.html" target="_blank">realign the Standard Gauge Railway</a> route to pass through the Nairobi National Park. What this means is that Nairobi National Park will lose 216 acres of land to this project alone. Kenya Railway gains from this sweet deal by not having to spend money - that it does not have, apparently - to compensate 'high value' agricultural and industrial land in Athi River. It is not clear how the conservation value of the park was calculated and determined to be lower than the value of the agricultural and industrial land. This is not the only park land that KWS has agreed to give away or sell to other corporations this year. Earlier this year, in April, KWS agreed to let the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) build a section of the Nairobi Southern Bypass road through the part and thus hive off some 89 acres of wildlife inhabited land from the 28,963 acres park. The KWS seems to have been persuaded into this deal by a promise that KeNHA would buy some 385 acres of land outside the park's southern boundary along the Mbagathi Valley in Kajiado County to compensate for the 89 acres annexed in the north. Some of this land is already under conservation easement. In other land deals that have come to light since protests against the Southern Bypass started are older and include the 2.97 acres lost to the 66KV Kenya Power line along the Bomas/KWS gate, the 25 acres occupied by the 400KV high voltage Ketraco power line pylons, the 30 acres taken by the old and new Kenya oil pipeline and a less than 1 acre taken by Faiba (Jamii Telcom) optic cable. These bring the total of land already taken away by development to about 58 acres. Underground power cables are also being laid inside the park. From the numbers we know, by the end of this year, some 363 acres of wildlife habitat will have been lost to conservation. All this will happen with some level of consent from the KWS and it leads us to question the commitment of the current board and management of the service to conservation of the world's only natural wildlife park within the precincts of a city. In April this year, conservationists' spirits lifted somewhat when President Uhuru Kenyatta announced in a gazette notice that he had appointed the legendary <a href="http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2015/04/veteran-conservationist-leakey-back-at-kws/" target="_blank">Dr. Richard Leakey as chairman of the KWS board</a>. Some expected that the entry of Dr. Leakey, famous for wrestling down the great elephant poaching crisis of the late 1980s, would have significant impact on how KWS deals with corporations eying park land for their projects. He himself had said in 2014 that the KWS needed a complete overhaul and new management and his appointment, naturally, was seen as a precursor to this overhaul. We have not seen the Leakey factor yet. We do hope, however, that he is working behind the scenes to shake things around and keep the integrity of KWS-controlled conservation land. History, however, does not support this hope - as far as our beloved little park is concerned - since Dr. Leakey is not known to leave his work 'behind the scenes'. Case in point, he convinced former President Moi to lead the first ever ivory burn in the world in 1989 - a very public gesture. How the KWS board and management handle the threats that the Nairobi National Park faces due to the city's hunger for land will determine if we will indeed have a park at all in the end. From the signs, and how fast KWS is signing deals to cede valuable conservation land, we do not know if it is safe to trust KWS with this task.