Impacts Of Urbanization On The Sustainable Conservation Of Nairobi National Park.

 

Nairobi National Park established in 1946 with an area of 117km2 to protect wildlife from human activities and threats has grown to be a tourist destination earning an average of Kshs.45 million per year for the country. It also plays other roles such as educational, scientific research, posterity and employment to many people. Sustainability of the park is however threatened by the rapid urbanization, increasing peri-urban land use changes and population growth. These threats are more pronounced within the wildlife migratory corridor. Despite the prevailing realization of land use changes, urban population increase together with associated activities and human – wildlife conflicts within the corridor, no empirical examination has been carried out to determine the extent and trends of these challenges. Similarly, there has been no documented attempt to study any relationships between these challenges and the population dynamics of the park’s migratory wildlife.

This study was carried out to: identify land use changes and their spatial trends within the wildlife corridor; investigate the current human – wildlife interactions; and examine the correlation between human population in Isinya and the population of migratory wildlife in the national park. Temporally varied Landsat TM images of 1995 and 2002 were processed and analyzed using ERDAS Imagine 9.3 to map spatial trends of land use changes within Isinya division, Kajiado which constitutes a part of the wildlife migratory corridor. Pearson’s product- moment correlation was used to correlate human population in Isinya and the population of wildebeests and zebras in the national park. A household and institutional survey was also carried out to examine the current human - wildlife interactions in the area.

The study findings show that land use changes in Isinya have occurred in stages, starting with a policy shift from communal to private ownership, then subdivisions and sales culminating in the current developments. This has been exacerbated by rapid population growth with density having increased eight fold between 1979 and 1999 from 5 to 42 people per square kilometer, and lack of land use plan for the area. The current new dominant land uses are residential, irrigated large-scale floriculture and quarrying. Human population in Isinya negatively correlates with the population of migratory wildlife in Nairobi National Park, having r = -0.097 and r= -0.400 with Zebra and Wildebeest populations’ respectively. Wildebeest population has been more seriously affected than the zebra’s population. These have affected wildlife by both fragmenting their migratory corridor and posing environmental risks of pollution and soil erosion. Trends show a constant decline in population of migratory wildlife in the park having concurrently started with a shift in the human population composition in Isinya, in the 1990s.

The trend indicates continued future land uptake by other land uses than for traditional pastoralism and wildlife migration that will enclose all wildlife in the park. An enclosed small-sized park is likely to result in an ecological crisis, rendering the conservation of Nairobi National Park unsustainable. The study recommends: a) ceasing of land subdivision, b) encouraging conservation lease program, c) development of Nairobi Metropolitan Open Space System (NMOSS), and d) compulsory corridor land acquisition by the government on behalf of KWS. The first two are for a short term while the latter for long term planning. This study is informative to land use planners, conservation organizations and relevant policy makers on revelation of the trend of land use changes that have taken place within the wildlife migratory corridors in Isinya in the last 30 years and which are likely to continue due to urban sprawl. It can also guide planning other areas with similar challenges like Maasai Mara, Tsavo and Meru national reserves and parks. The study has also recommended the determination of the required corridor width for the migratory wildlife of Nairobi National Park.

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