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A green oasis: How Nairobi’s world-only national park benefits lions, giraffes and people

Kenya’s capital is known as the "Green City in the Sun"
Kenya’s capital is known as the "Green City in the Sun" Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Hannah Brown with AP
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117 km2 of green space filled with wildlife can be found just outside the centre of Kenya’s capital.

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Did you know Nairobi is the only capital city in the world that has a national park in it?

The park is a vast reserve that covers 117 square kilometres and is a haven for wildlife, including lions, rhinos, giraffes, buffalos and various species of antelope.

But experts say Nairobi National Park is faced by a myriad of threats, including pollution, human-wildlife conflict, infrastructure development and poaching.

Kenya’s Green City in the Sun

Kenya’s capital is known as the "Green City in the Sun", due to its pleasant climate and numerous green spaces.

"Nairobi rightfully deserves that name because we are a green city that is full of biodiversity, but this is under immense threat," says Nickson Otieno from Niko Green, a sustainability consulting firm.

"Some years back, we had an incident where we had lions walking on the streets

"That tells us actually we have to rethink how we coexist, how we develop our infrastructure while at the same time conserving the rich nature that we have had as a city," he adds.

There is already a railway line that runs through the park and as the city expands human habitats are encroaching further into the space designated for wildlife. Some trees are also being cut down for building construction.

"There's been suggestions by a former director, Dr David Western, that the Nairobi National Park should be fenced, which personally I am totally opposed to,” says conservationist David Mascall.

“Reason being is it then turns it into a zoo, it then turns it into a genetic nightmare because you've got no movement of game going out, interacting and breeding with the latest species outside, bringing new genes back into the park, it will lock everything in."

What are the benefits of a national park in a city?

Situated at an altitude of 1,795 metres above sea level, Nairobi enjoys mild temperatures throughout the year.

"[In Kenya], our grid is very much green because we are sourcing much of our electricity from hydro and geothermal,” says Otieno.

The sunny weather means there is good natural light so there is less energy demand for lighting. Nickson suggests they should also be harnessing this to power the city’s buildings.

"Here we have an environment in the middle of the city where the air is unpolluted, living on the periphery, on the southern side is paradise because you are not breathing in all the nonsense and the rubbish, the noise and all the rest of it," explains Mescall.

Research has shown that the shade of mature trees also helps to reduce dangerous “heat islands,” especially in poor neighbourhoods.

Watch the video above to learn more about Kenya’s green city in the sun.

Video editor • Hannah Brown

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