Governor Sakaja kicks out marabou storks from the city

Marabou storks perched along Kenyatta Avenue on September 5, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The new Nairobi County administration has kicked out marabou storks from the city after their favourite trees fell victim to the chain saw.

The trees include old palm trees along Kenyatta Avenue, Moi Avenue and other areas within the city.

The trees which conservationists termed as ornamental are lined along the busy Kenyatta Avenue.

But this week, County workers dawned on the trees, pruning all the branches leaving behind thick dry stems with the hope that fresh leaves would sprout.

As the branches fell off, the natural habitat for the birds dropped off, taking away the shelter that had become the birds' new home after their natural habitat at Nyayo Stadium was destroyed during the construction of the JKIA-Westlands Expressway.

And now, a section of city residents and experts are faulting the county government for destroying the natural habitat of the birds.

It emerged that the move was mooted after some residents and motorists complained that the birds perching on the trees soiled their clothes and parked vehicles with their droppings.

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja in a tweet said he was also upset like other city residents that then tree branches had to be cut.

“I have been assured that the pruning done after the outcry by pedestrians due to the recent Marabou stork’s invasion was procedural and that the tree shall be nurtured,” Sakaja tweeted on Friday afternoon.

But he was quick to add: “Again I reiterate; we will increase our tree cover in the city. I was upset as you all but the tree will grow,” he added.

Conservationists however warn that cutting down the trees was a bad idea, saying the ornamental trees should have been spared as they had taken many years to grow.

“Chopping off trees at the city centre is very odd but the trees are important in the city because they help in reducing temperatures better than artificial shades,” explained Paul Gacheru, Nature Kenya Species and Sites Programmes Manager.

 Gacheru said: "Where there are trees, it is cooler and habitable compared to where there are no trees. Concrete walls deflect heat. Trees offer a cooling effect,” said Gacheru.

He said that marabou storks are scavengers that hunt and eat dead material, adding that because of the changing environment, the birds had relocated to dumpsites but still search for places to nest.

It's no easy walk in the city for this Nairobi marabou stork after his home (left) was pulled down to pave way for the JKIA-Westlands Expressway.  [Waweru Murage,Standard]

The conservationist also says that it is high time that humans decide how to adopt because cutting down the trees is a reactionary measure which is not helpful.

“The birds could go but how long will it take for the tree to grow? Birds are doing their natural way of living, does it mean we will cut all trees in Nairobi because of birds,” the expert posed.

According to Gatheru, the County should be clear about how the trees will be replaced and that there should be an agreed percentage of the trees which is agreed upon in the city.

This is the case at Sunken Parking along Aga-Khan walk where motorists avoid parking their vehicles under the trees.

Last year city residents on various platforms were up in arms after the county chopped off palm trees on the canopies.

The palm trees dot some areas of the Central Business District including Moi Avenue, Ronald Ngala, and Kenyatta Avenue.

This was after motorists complained that falling branches from the trees damaged their vehicles.

Andrew Omondi, who leads a group of parking attendants along Moi Avenue, said that he had counted more than six vehicles whose windscreens were damaged by branches falling from the palm trees.

“That is why we raised the issue with the authorities after noting how motorists were avoiding the area fearing that branches will damage their vehicles," explained Omondi.