The city doesn’t deliver much of a natural habitat in respect to the wild untamed natural areas. Having grown up in the city, one would marvel at how conservation and I became highly acquainted. While growing up, I never lived among wildlife, I had no idea how living with wild animals near you was like. I basically had no experience with living in the countryside as most of my peers have. The closest thing to wildlife I experienced was endless viewing of Wildlife Documentaries and books which I was fortunate enough to possess as I grew right in the middle of a concrete jungle, Nairobi. Of more importance was the close proximity to Nairobi National Park, Giraffe center and Mamba Village, which I had the chance to visit as much as possible. These areas in Nairobi made it possible for me to interact with wildlife. My interest grew over the years and whenever the chance came to leave the city and tour Natural areas in Kenya, I was always up for the journey. Thanks to my primary and secondary school administration and my family who nurtured this interest.
Being on the science side of conservation and learning more everyday makes me appreciate the natural world in an urban setting. On a normal busy day, when the smog is on a high and the hooting is never-ending, with shops blasting music from every corner, vehicle engines competing and everyone seems to be talking in higher than normal voices, I have become accustomed to noticing even the slightest movement of a bird, reptile or insect right in the middle of the Central Business District of Nairobi. This may appear peculiar to many. But on occasion I’ll find myself focused on bird, lizard or insect as they go about their business highly oblivious of the chaos around them.
Wild life is part of a wider ecosystem that needs to be protected and preserved for future generations and in an urban set up, with less to no wildlife, an average person would question what needs to be protected. Wild life encompasses both flora and fauna. In this case, it’s not only the animals we are protecting but also the plants. Urban areas could establish healthy ecosystems by incorporating trees or vegetation in our ever growing concrete jungle.
The natural world provides a number of ecosystem services and resources which are free for us humans to utilize and even with all the technology we have, these services cannot be produced by man. We need clean fresh air in our urban areas which we undisputedly take for granted, and as a result it’s essential to maintain a healthy ecosystem. There may be no space to plant as many trees as needed, but with proper management and well done research we could invest in roof-top gardens. Urban cities like New York , Paris and Tokyo have already taken up the challenge and are even producing organic food from rooftops. Hence, this is a conceivable venture.
Collecting rain water, a natural resource, is as well possible in urban cities. This would reduce the water shortages we experience in cities, providing readily available clean drinking water. The sun is itself a natural resource and Nairobi, being the city under the sun, and any other urban city, solar panels are not a bad idea. For residents in urban cities, we could have miniature gardens in plastics containers, wooden boxes and sisal sacks. Who says one needs a plot of land to grow food.
Nairobi has an insurmountable number of green spaces such as The Arboretum, Karura Forest, Nairobi National park, City Park, Uhuru Park, Uhuru Gardens and Nairobi National Museum among others. Protecting green spaces in urban areas will not only ensure we have recreational areas which provide aesthetic values but also ensure we have an overall healthy ecosystem. To protect this areas, urban city residents by showing interest and participation in these areas, either by visiting or joining the local conservation groups, will enhance the management, protection and promote sustainable eco-tourism which will guarantee these areas be available for future generations to also relish.
Being an urban conservationists is not an easy quest since you have to exploit and in some instances destroy natural resources. There are many conflicting interests with different parties having their different opinions which is very healthy. Whether it’s the construction of a building or modern structure in green spaces such as the highly disputed Phase 2 of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Nairobi National Park or the protection of green spaces such as was the case of Uhuru Park which was fought for by the late Professor Wangari Maathai. There are solutions to every problem, and as a good conservationist, “working with stakeholders to achieve goals that support and enhance their existing plans to either accommodate the natural world or work around it in a non (or less) damaging way”, are challenges one will inevitably face. There will always be the need to seek a balance between the needs of an ever growing human population with the needs of the natural world in order to, in the end, achieve a healthy ecosystem.