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?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents - by PARAS CHANDARIA 2015 PARAS CHANDARIA is a wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher and con­ser­va­tion­ist. He has been pho­tograph­ing the wildlife of Nairobi Na­tional Park for the past six years.

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.

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