Behind the image
Nairobi is the safari capital of the world, but as urban jungles collide, can the city protect the wilderness on its doorstep?
The giraffe with a head for city heights
Significantly smaller than the Serengeti, what it lacks in size, Nairobi National Park makes up for in character. A stone’s throw from the business district’s shimmering skyscrapers, this 117km2 expanse of plains and dry grassland is the only national park in the world to lie within the borders of a capital city. “The park is packed with wildlife, including lions, leopards, giraffes, hyenas and zebras. It’s home to 400 different species of bird, and is probably one of the best places in the world to see black rhinos and serval cats,” says Paras. “All this just 10 minutes’ drive from home.”
Despite its proximity to the capital’s three million citizens, the park is not completely fenced. A hotel has reported regular sightings of rhinos, and lions are spotted from living rooms. But existing alongside humans brings inevitable challenges. “The animals face constant pressure from development,” says Paras. “A high-voltage electricity line runs through the park, as does an oil pipeline, a bypass road and a new express railway line, now in phase two of construction.”
Lines of battle The 490km railway under development will connect Nairobi with Malaba on the Uganda border, but has proved highly controversial. Though it is elevated on pillars to allow movement beneath, conservationists are concerned that it will upset the ecosystem and push animals away. “Six lions have died so far, due to space constraints,” says Paras. “Two buffalos were also shot.”
Paras took this image as soon as he heard of the railway plans. “I wanted to capture the uniqueness of the park against the city skyline,” he says. “I also wanted to show that every life counts. To me, a single giraffe is more important than any development. But the railway is here now, and wildlife seems to be getting used to it. Only time will tell.”
I wanted to show that every life counts. To me, a single giraffe is more important than any development.