, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 21 – It is an image famous in a thousand postcards: giraffe, rhino and zebra pacing the savannah with city skyscrapers towering in the background.
But flanked by one of the continents fastest growing cities, Kenya’s capital Nairobi, East Africa’s oldest national park is under threat.
“There is huge pressure on the park,” said conservation activist Paula Kahumbu, who heads the Wildlife Direct campaign group.
Set up by British colonial settlers in the 1940s, pressure now comes from all sides: roads, railways, factories and houses.
The park, some 117 square kilometres (45 square miles), is a wilderness where buffalo and rhino roam just seven kilometres (four miles) from the bustling high-rise city centre.
But like countries across the continent, Kenya is weighing the difficult balance between conservation and development.
The century-old colonial railway yard is now a traffic-clogged major city growing at breakneck speeds.
To the south, the reserve has already had to face the development of a large urban area, pressing on a key wildlife corridor for animals moving to find grazing.
Now fresh infrastructure projects threaten the park: a major road bypass and expansion of a railway line, seen as vital to modernise freight lines bringing goods to Kenya and onwards to landlocked East Africa nations.