Viral Nairobi Park Lions - New Details Emerge

  • The image taken by Vishal Shikotra that sparked a storm on social media
    The image taken by Vishal Shikotra that sparked a storm on social media
    Vishal Shikotra
  • UPDATE 12:50 p.m. : The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) issued a statement following the uproar over the viral image, clarifying that no express way was being constructed through the Nairobi National Park (NNP).

    "The correct position is that a local contractor engaged by KWS is improving the road joining KWS Headquarters to Central Workshop inside the Park. Currently, he is scooping murram from a quarry near the Standard Gauge Railway for use on the existing murram road.

    "The contractor will rehabilitate the quarry pit after completing the works on the road in accordance with an Environmental Management Plan approved and availed to him by KWS Management, the statement seen by read in part.

    An image shared by journalist James Smart on Tuesday, June 23 of lions at the Nairobi National Park (NNP) has sparked a storm on social media.

    The photo showed four lions perched on mounds of dirt at the park, with an excavator and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in the background. Smart claimed that the lions were watching their habitat being destroyed to pave way for the construction of an express road.

    The contrast of lions watching such intense human activity on their habitat sparked the uproar, with a section of Kenyans rallying together to demand an end to construction of infrastructure projects in the park.

    The photographer behind the image, Vishal Shikotra, however, sought to clarify the issue as the story spread, stating that the lions were witnessing regular maintenance of park roads. He urged Kenyans not to share false information based on his photo.

    File image of the Nairobi National Park
    File image of the Nairobi National Park

    "People should not use my photos and post wrong or false information. Sadly this photo is being branded about on Twitter claiming that it is KWS building a highway through the park. 

    "Please take note that this is totally untrue. These are the murram pits between no.7 and no.8 which are being excavated for road repairs of the park road as usual," Shikotra wrote on Instagram.

    He added that KWS does not bring in soil from outside the park. He also noted that once the excavation was completed, it will become a watering hole for the game park where lions "love to lie on the mounds of can be seen in this photo,"

    Uproar from the photo saw Nairobi National Park become the top Twitter trend in the country on Wednesday, June 24 as many demanded answers.

    Wildlife expert and conservation activist Paula Kahumbu was among those who contributed to the debate, calling on Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala to take action.

    Kahumbu urged Kenyans to support a petition to secure the natural integrity of the park and its ecosystem by ensuring that no new infrastructure projects are constructed within the park.

    Activists have warned that continued developments at the park threaten its status as the only national park located within a major city.

    In recent years, environmental activists have been up in arms over approvals granted for various projects at the park.

    In 2017, a section of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) was routed through the park despite vehement protests from the conservation fraternity.

    In March of this year, they were up in arms yet again after plans to build an access road through the park to link the Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD) to the Southern Bypass were announced.

    The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), however, gave a green-light for the project to proceed.

    File image of the Nairobi National Park
    File image of the Nairobi National Park