Fears over fencing-in Kenya's capital wildlife

In the heart of Nairobi, lions, buffalo, giraffes and the critically-endangered black rhino roam freely against the backdrop of a bustling city.

This is Africa's only game reserve within a capital but conservationists say the animals are under threat from plans to block their movement.

Ten kilometres south of the park, conservationist Reinhard Nyandire points out paw-prints.

"These are fresh footprints of a lion, those of the lioness and then you can see the ones of the young ones here."

But this cave - a refuge for breeding lions - lies on the other side of a proposed fence.

As the capital has grown, three borders of the park have been fenced off, but the animals have always been able to roam south.

Nyandire - who works with non-profit group Friends of Nairobi National Park - says you see a lot of game outside the park during rainy season.

"Why? Because the community use this particular piece of land to graze their cattle and their livestock. Wildlife love that kind of fresh grass that is growing every rainy season. The conditions in Nairobi National Park are not palatable for wildlife to stay inside."

But now the Kenya Wildlife Service, or KWS, is aiming to prevent so-called "human-animal conflict" with a ten-year plan to fence off the last border.

KWS figures show four deaths and two injuries caused by wildlife between 2015 and 2019.

Nkamunu Patita is the coordinator for the neighboring Naretunoi conservancy.

"So, if you block that. You are basically talking about making these animals lack space to move, lack space to breed, lack space to move from one habitat to another, move to better pastures during the dry season"

A KWS report from 2016 described fencing off the park as the "least suitable option," noting it would encourage conflict among rhinos and lions as their ranges shrink, and would also prevent other species from migrating.

It's not the first time the city has encroached on the park.

A six-kilometre long bridge was built through it in 2018 for a new high-speed railway, and KWS reports have previously noted that sewage from nearby settlements empties into the park's river.

The director general of KWS had promised an interview to discuss the plan, but later did not respond to messages or questions and a spokesman declined to comment.