Within the Sanctuaries of her 56 National Parks and Reserves, Kenya’s shelters some of the most ancient, fragile and diverse
wildlife on Earth. The Eden of planet, her plains and forest offer refuge to the last of the big cats, the world’s greatest herds of
elephants, the endangered white and black Rhino, and a number of endemic species that occur nowhere else on earth.
The custodian of over 80 species of mammals, across her golden savannahs, gallop the largest herds of migrating plains game ever seen, while in the depths of her forests live giants hogs that are rarely seen.
High in the snows of Mount Kenya hunts the elusive Golden cat, and across the parched painted deserts of the Northern Frontier lumber leopard tortoises whose ancestry stretches back 245 million years.
It’s not just the fabled ‘Big Five’, but also, that Kenya owes her wildlife crown, but to the myriad other creatures, some almost too small to be seen but make up the unique wildlife heritage.
An ornithologist’s Paradise
With over 1,137 bird species, Kenya has the second-highest country bird species-count in Africa. And the fourth highest in the
world. On the glittering Rift Valley lakes live over four million and greater flamingos, their patterns shifting and changing like a giant coral – pink mirage. Above the savanna soar eagles, vultures, kites, and harriers. Perched on the backs of browsing rhinoceros, red-billed ox-peckers ride the plains. Deep in the reed-beds forage 400 species of water birds, amid the acacia trees flutter huge colonies of brilliant-yellow weaver birds.
Flora, Fauna and Avifauna
Kenya’s flora is diverse, Coastal forests contain palm, mangrove, teak, copal and sandalwood trees. Forests of baobab, Euphorbia and acacia trees cover the lowlands to an elevation of approximately 915m. Extensive areas of savannah are
interspersed with gloves of acacia and papyrus, which characterize the terrain from 915m to 2750m above sea level.
There are 80 major animal species ranging from the ‘big five’ to tiny antelopes such as the dik-diks. 32 endemic species are
endangered. Kenya boasts around 1,137 species of birds.
Meru National Park is one of the least visited and therefore one of the least spoiled of Kenya’s national parks. The equator
bisects the park whose 1810 sq km landscape is mainly given over to bush-land but with grasslands in the west. Thick forests grow along the park’s many watercourses.
The park has 13 rivers and a myriad of mountain streams that feed into the Tana river. Hundreds of bird species have made the
park their home – among them the Pel’s Fishing Owl which can be heard hunting at night by the river and the rare Peter’s
Finfoot. Being extremely secretive these duck-like birds are usually spotted hugging the tree-sheltered water’s edge. Keen
birdwatchers should also keep their eyes peeled for the relatively rare Palm-Nut Vulture which feeds on a mixture of carrion
and, not surprisingly, palm nuts.
Mammals inhabiting the park include leopard, cheetah, elephant, lion, both Grevy’s and plains zebra, hartebeest, hippo, reticulated giraffe and some decent sized herds of buffalo. The big cats can sometimes be difficult to spot due to areas of tall grass cover and dense bush land.
The Meru National Park has a chequered history and fared terribly during the late 1980’s when poaching became rife and the
entire white rhino population which had been introduced into the park was annihilated.
The Kenyan government responded decisively and drove out the poachers and restored strong security. Although tourist numbers are still down on the pre-poaching era, wildlife numbers are encouragingly on t e increase. The Kenyan Wildlife Service relocated elephants from the Laikipia plateau to Meru in 2001. This success led to the relocation of a number of other species during that decade and you can now see both black and white rhino as well as healthy herds of reedbuck.