Kenya Wildlife Service top management hosted a webinar Wednesday, June 10, to demystify the Nairobi National Park Management Plan.
KWS Director General, Brig. (Rtd) John Waweru said KWS looks forward to partnering with all stakeholders to realize its mandate, which will be achieved through management plans.
He made the remarks as he hosted a webinar in which KWS engaged with the public on matters concerning the ambitious NNP Management Plan.
The webinar was moderated by Doreen Robinson, Global Chief for Wildlife UN Environment Programme in Nairobi. Panellists included:
- Prof. Charles Musyoki, Director, Parks and Reserves
- Dr. Patrick Omondi, Director Biodiversity Research and Planning
- Mr. Apollo Kariuki, Head Planning and Environmental Compliance
Mr. Kariuki walked participants through the standard planning process followed at KWS as well as the NNP management plan. The planning was carried out by NNP Managers and Stakeholders, KWS Biodiversity Planning and Environmental Assessment Departments in accordance with the Protected Areas Planning.
He identified 12 areas of concern, arrived at through a participatory process: Habitat loss and fragmentation in dispersal areas; decline in wildlife populations; poaching; human-wildlife conflicts; alien and invasive species; pollution; mining and quarries; climate change; low park visitation; increased urbanization; settlement on the sheep and goats ranch and infrastructure development.
Some of the decisions taken with the plan have been informed by the land uses in dispersal areas. He gave an example of an advertisement which appeared in yesterday’s newspaper, in which the Kenya Urban Roads Authority tendered for the construction of the Athi River/Ongata Rongai/Matassia Road. This will further fragment dispersal areas, which are being increasingly converted into settlements – totally incompatible with wildlife conservation.
Responding to a question, Mr. Kariuki explained that the threat matrix was developed by a process of first identifying the conservation targets, threats to each of these, plus scope and severity of the threat. It is a simplified form of the Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Action Plan.
Prof. Musyoki outlined the uniqueness of NNP, saying KWS has been conducting visitor park surveys for the last decade. Concerns raised include low wildlife sightings, poor roads, inefficient park entry process, substandard restrooms, lack of an eatery and limited park interpretation in terms of signage.
This feedback caused KWS to strategize on ways to iron out all these issues and improve the park to offer an enhanced visitor experience, because visitor tastes have changed over time.
Prof. Musyoki said KWS plans to leverage on technology by pursuing ways to introduce Wi-Fi throughout the park, as well as a Park App to guide visitors as they navigate the park.
He spoke about the importance of community relations. KWS is keen to reach out to communities, particularly on the southern reaches of the park. NNP outreach program will engage them on the conservation programs, planning and management of the park and ensure that they benefit from the conservation of NNP. He acknowledged the huge role of youth in the conservation of NNP.
KWS plans to set up stalls for the community to enable them sell artefacts to visitors, build a footbridge and an amphitheatre to avail a site for cultural performances. Eco tourism is also high on the agenda, particularly as relates to the Naretunoi Community Conservancy.
In reply to the webinar participants’ questions, Prof. Musyoki explained that the NNP Masterplan Taskforce is an administrative outfit established within KWS to brainstorm on ways in which to improve the visitor experience. The taskforce collaborated with stakeholders, e.g. Friends of Nairobi National Park (FONNAP) in this and completed its mandate.
Dr. Patrick Omondi spoke on the ecological management programs that KWS envisages within the 2020-2030 NNP Management Plan. Ecological components and processes of NNP and its habitats should be understood, and efforts made to restore and conserve them, he said.
Dr. Omondi added that the Management Plan is not static, but a living document that tried to reduce the threats highlighted earlier.
Eight conservation targets and 10 priority actions have been identified. Targets include: rhino conservation; migratory species; large carnivores and Maasai giraffe, among others. Actions include: develop and implement a prescribed Management Plan to improve the quality of habitats; salt lick supplementation; control of several invasive species that threaten the park; develop alternative water resources in NNP, strengthen research, etc.
Other areas of concern are how to address liquid pollution, climate change impact and zoonotic disease monitoring. He spoke about geo fencing and collaring of wildlife to allow for monitoring.
He stressed the importance of partnerships in monitoring migratory corridors, saying it was important to work together under the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA).
Webinar participant Dr. Paula Kahumbu requested for KWS’ active participation in an upcoming public Conservation Alliance (CA) meeting.
Brig. (Rtd) Waweru promised future engagements with the public. He confirmed that KWS’ Community Wildlife Service Division would attend the CA meeting, saying KWS’ main concern was to maintain NNP’s pristine state.
He ended the webinar by requesting all visitors to observe Park Rules when they visit the park, stressing the need to be safe from wildlife by not exiting their vehicles except at designated areas.
He reminded them of the plastics ban in all KWS protected areas which came into effect from 5th June, 2020 saying KWS would enforce it.