The other day, a colleague asked me why I seem to lose it whenever people start talking about lions invading Nairobians’ space after straying out of the Nairobi National Park.
I was being accused of being insensitive to the residents’ concerns and downplaying their fears as unfounded. The main charge against me is that I care less about the lives of the residents and I am always defending the animals whose rightful place is the park, not streets or residential areas.
Speaking to Nairobians about wild animals is never easy, but if what I do is a crime, then I am guilty as charged, and I should write this: The lions (from Nairobi National Park) have a right of way anywhere in the city. It is pointless to be shouting at every tourism fair that Nairobi is the only capital city with a national park and yet start issuing travel advisories ourselves when some hungry animals come to mingle with the people.
For ages, the accusation against Western governments has been that Kenya’s tourist numbers are dwindling because of travel advisories that portray the whole country as unsafe — but we never realise that our marketing strategies are archaic. If anything, Kenyans pay lip service to tourism and continue to do the same thing expecting different results.
The national parks, or the wild animals have been, and still are Kenya’s Unique Selling Proposition, but at the same time, Kenyans, especially Nairobi’s noisy middling class and the struggling working class who are dying to fit in, are not ready to embrace the wildlife, or even the national parks and do not complain enough when they are killed or grabbed by politically-correct individuals.
Then there is the issue of rushing to new media platforms to whine when a tired and harassed, in fact hungry and traumatised lion takes a stroll to check if your space is as cramped as theirs, now that your rapacious political demigods have reduced the park to a strip. The message you send by thinking with your fingers and complaining about the animals is counterproductive to the tired tourism marketing strategy of Nairobi is the only capital city with a national park.
You are telling the safety freaks that are Western tourists, which your tourism gurus worship, that they can be attacked by wild animals at the gates of the bus park that is passed off as an international airport.
You are telling the world that you are not comfortable with these animals near you and are admitting that you live in fear. Why should they visit this “national park” when you want the whole city closed down because a lone lion is taking a stroll?
Did I write that you are ignorant when it comes to animals? Yes you are. Even the communications persons at the agency that manages the park are not any better. “If you see a lion on the streets, do not make noise,” they issued such a statement. “Lions hate noise.” Aren’t there earthmovers and other construction equipment in the park? Don’t they make noise and disturb the animals. That is probably why they are walking out since the ecosystem, and their peace have been interfered with?
People, man-eating lions are not there any longer otherwise all those greedy land grabbers with residential houses along the migratory route could have been mauled ages ago. To make matters better, dear Nairobi’s middling and working classes, those animals are bright: You look so tasteless, and bland, and unappetising in all aspects that they cannot waste their energy killing you for food.
If at all you have been visiting the park instead of spending your free time quaffing copious amounts of cheap alcohol, you could have known that lionesses hunt most of the time and that lions — like most Nairobi men — are lazy, but eat first, eat the best parts of a prey and eat a lot of it. Where do you think the phrase “lions’ share” came from?
Please remember that the lions are not straying (so stop calling them stray lions). You encroached on their habitat, and considering what is happening to the park, more animals, not just lions, will come out to the streets.
Those animals are innocent, and have the right of way so learn to live with them — if anything, there are hungrier and more dangerous ones in your midst and you call them leaders.