Nairobi Marabou Storks lose their home to Expressway


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 road projects in the city have chased away flocks of marabou storks, with the hardest hit being those that used to perch and nest on trees along Mombasa Road especially around Nyayo Stadium.

When construction of the Nairobi Expressway started, many trees that had grown by the side of the road of years were uprooted to create room for the expanded thoroughfare.

With their habitat destroyed, the marabou storks migrated to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, which is situated in the heart of the central business district. But even here their stay was short-lived after the centre’s management pruned all the acacia trees on the property.

“The canopies of the trees were cut because the birds had migrated in large numbers. Their droppings left the cars parked on the grounds dirty. Customers were not happy to find their cars with stains,” said a parking attendant.

Sam Mwangi, a photographer who has made a living taking photos at the KICC, said some of the marabou storks had lived on the grounds for years but when the trees were pruned, they were left with nowhere to go.

“Some of them have been knocked down by vehicles and killed around City Hall because they still come back to look for their nests. They should have relocated them peacefully” said Mr Mwangi.

Marabou storks on a tree along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi [David Njaaga, Standard]

Nature Kenya Species and Sites Programmes Manager Paul Gacheru said the 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.

“They play an important role because they help in sorting the garbage. Cutting trees around the city is affecting biodiversity in general. The contractors and other organisations should have planned to replace the trees like those around Nyayo Stadium,” said Mr Gacheru.

Gacheru said uprooting of trees around the city meant there will be fewer nesting grounds not only for marabous but other birds.

He said that ornamental trees do not offer good nesting grounds for birds, and that the county should replace the indigenous trees being cut down with similar species in Uhuru Park and road reserves to allow the birds to have a home.

Gacheru explained that although the marabou storks are not considered to be endangered, the acacia trees provide comfort and safety even though they can nest on others trees away from the city.

The contractors building the Expressway, he added, should have employed different technology to avoid cutting down the trees.

“They should have planned to plant trees and replace them with original species, or apply an offsetting formula, which means if five trees are knocked down, the same number should be planted elsewhere,” Gacheru said.

He added, “We never saw much discussion on the impact of cutting down all the trees from Westlands to the airport, except for the mugumo tree that people defended and saved from uprooting. But we forgot about other trees.”