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Nairobi National Park Is The Only Wilderness Area in a Nation's Capital


Areas of protected wilderness are generally far away from urban centers. But Kenya's Nairobi National Park is the only protected wilderness in the world that is located within a capital city. This poses challenges but also opportunities for tourists and Kenyans alike. VOA's Cathy Majtenyi visited Nairobi National Park and filed this report.

Zebras, ostriches and giraffes graze against a backdrop of savannah, a typical African landscape.

But turn the corner, and the view is quite different.

Kenya's Nairobi National Parkis the only one of its kind located within a capital city.

The 117-square kilometer park is just seven kilometers from the city center.

On three sides of the park, only a thin electric fence separates the wild animals from the nearby human population.

Michael Wanjau is senior warden. He describes the down sides of the park's location.
"We also have factories, which are located just next to the boundary of the park, and that of course is affecting discharges of liquid waste into the park. There is noise, for example from the aircrafts and also from factories," Wanjau said.

Nairobi National Park is connected to another major wildlife area by land known as a migratory corridor.

As Nairobi and other urban centers expand, there is concern that human settlement may block the animals' migration during the rainy season.

Eunice Kiarie is deputy senior warden in charge of the Nairobi Animal Orphanage where baby animals are rescued and raised. She worries that the migratory corridor could become blocked. "These animals (may) not exchange their genes because they might even suffer in-breeding, because the same father, the same mother, they interbreed," Kiarie said.

But for now, park officials say the benefits of Nairobi National Park's location close to the capital outweigh the disadvantages.

"There is a lot of pollution in the city, there is a lot of noise, lack of enough space, other stresses coming from livelihood systems, whether it is pressure from work, pressure from competition for space, traffic jams and so on," Senior warden Michael Wanjau said. "So when you find a place to relax, it really gives you satisfaction. So this has been a place where that kind of experience is available."

Orphanage head Eunice Kiarie says the orphanage, and the nearby Nairobi Safari Walk, where visitors can see animals up close, offer educational opportunities for Kenyans and tourists alike.

And they also give visitors the chance to see animals in their natural habitat.

For those who live in Nairobi, the wild is only a short bus ride away.

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