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Nairobi National Park: World’s Wildlife near a City

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The famous Nairobi National Park is a few minutes drive from Nairobi’ CBD (Central Business District). Covering over 45 square miles of forests, rocky valleys, and grasslands, it is the oldest national park in Kenya and the only one worldwide located within a country’s capital. The park’s proximity to a busy urban centre doesn’t diminish its serene feel and wildlife diversity.

The park takes pride in hosting over 100 species of mammals and more than 500 different types of avi-fauna. One of the things that make Nairobi Park more interesting than other safari destinations in East Africa is that it features free grazing herbivores such as wildebeest, giraffe, eland, Thompson’s gazelle, and other animals. It is the only park where you can capture a picture of a free-roaming buffalo, leopard, rhino, lion, and other amazing animals in a natural ecology against a city skyline or the backdrop of Nairobi City’s skyscrapers.

Nairobi National Park

Photo by Donwel Tours and Travel

Nairobi Park has both man-made and natural boundaries. It features fences carefully set around the 45 square mile area except for the southern edge. The southern area of the park is an open space primarily used by migratory animals whenever sources of water and new vegetation develop outside the national park. Nairobi park also has resident animals, making it an outstanding all-year round excursion during your wilderness holiday in Kenya. If you visit the park during a rainy season, get ready to be awed with an abundance of sweet-scented wildflowers, particularly the yellow daisies.

4 of the BIG 5

The Nairobi National Park has genuinely earned the nickname ‘Kiffaru Ark,’ a testament to its unwavering success as a kifaru (rhinoceros) sanctuary. It is home to 4 of the big 5 – rhinoceros, leopards, lion, and buffalo but not elephants. The Kenya Wildlife Service moved the elephants to deter the human-animal conflict… after all, the park is a wildlife sanctuary within Kenya’s capital.

Lions, the king of the jungle, and scavengers such as hyenas are commonly sighted within the Nairobi Park. For convenience, rangers at the park’s entrance often provide updates on lion movements. However, you will need a lot of luck and a bit of patience to spot the park’s resident leopards and cheetahs.

Nairobi National Park has other animals too

River Athi is a natural southern boundary. It is an admirable setting for a quiet bushwalk through the serene riverine forest filled with birds and monkeys. The area also has crocodiles and hippos majorly found in river pools. According to Lonely Planet, the park’s wetland areas host about 400 bird species, which is way more than bird species in the entire United Kingdom. Other regularly spotted animals include warthogs, giraffes, buffaloes, zebras, ostriches, and more.

The animal orphanage: a refuge for the wildlife

The Nairobi animal orphanage is located within the Nairobi Park. Receiving more than 200,000 visitors annually, the wildlife sanctuary has become more of an educational centre. A couple of months ago, I visited this animal orphanage in the company of Subhankar Bhattacharjee (Subha), Dr. William Njuguna, and Manojit (we nicknamed him Babu – grandpa).

Dr. Njuguna, Manojit, and Subha at Nairobi Animal Orphanage

According to the park’s administration, the animal orphanage was established in 1964, making it the oldest of its kind in the country. It serves as an educational and training ground for over 20 animal and bird species. The park facilitates the rehabilitation of animals that are injured and young ones that have been abandoned.

Though open to international tourists, the Nairobi Safari Walk and the Nairobi Animal Orphanage serve as an affordable attraction for Kenyans. It is not uncommon to meet school children, groups of young people, and adult Kenyans in this park. What caught my attention and that of my companions is the KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service)’s dedication to taking care of the animals. Guess what, all the animals within the orphanage are fed and taken care of by the rangers!

As we walked around within the park, we came across many animals such as monkeys, baboons, warthogs, buffaloes, and carnivores such as cheetahs, lions, jackals, hyenas, and more. Dr. Njuguna had even bought a few bananas to feed the monkeys… it was fun to see how the monkeys would scramble for a single banana. At last, the dominant male took the banana and tried to follow Dr. Njuguna for more.

The birds…

Parrots, crown crane, ostrich, and guinea fowl are some of the avi-fauna rescued, treated, and preserved by the orphanage. The facility’s administration says that all the animals get medical examinations and the right treatment before being placed in a carefully designed and feeding rehabilitation program based on their individual needs.

Other amazing places within the Nairobi Park

The ivory burning site: You must have heard about the second president of Kenya – Daniel Arap Moi. This is where he set on fire 12 tons of ivory in a bid to terminate poaching and mass slaughter of Africa’s elephants. Thanks to our beloved Moi, we still have a growing population of elephants in Kenyan parks.

Impala observation point: Here, you can have panoramic views of impalas and other animals. It is a great picnic spot. It has toilets too – thought you should know.

Hippo pools and nature trail: This is a short, self-guided nature trail (majorly patrolled by the KWS rangers). It leads out of a shaded picnic section along the River Athi, where you can see crocodiles, hippos, and monkeys. Beware of the sneaky monkeys that can grab a banana from your hands.

Kingfisher picnic site: This is a shaded area equipped with picnic tables. It is ideal for early morning meals.

Mokoyeti picnic site: This is an open cliff top area with shaded tables and ample parking. Nearby is a leopard cliff observation point. It’s a breath-taking experience looking down into the gorge.

Wrapping up

Nairobi National Park and the Nairobi Animal Orphanage, according to Subha and Manojit, are some of the unique places in Africa. The park is about 15 minute-drive away from the capital’s CBD and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Despite this fact, it has always been an exceptional initiative to preserve wildlife and the general environment.

What other places in Kenya or on the continent would you like to know more about? Mention them in your comments.

 

 

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The Calcutta Botanical Gardens, A Paradise For Nature Lovers

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Calcutta Botanical Gardens
Image credit : Wikipedia

The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, also known as the Calcutta Botanical Garden, is located in West Bengal. Its earlier names were the Royal Botanic Garden and the Indian Botanic Garden. It is under the BSI (Botanical Survey of India) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests

 This sprawling garden one of the must-visit places in West Bengal for nature lovers. There is a wide range of plants that inhabit different types of birds. So, if you have a passion for photography, you’ll fall in love with this place. 

History of the Calcutta Botanical Garden:

The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden was founded by Colonel Alexander Kyd in 1786. He was an army officer working under the British East India Company. He created this garden to identify and grow different plants special of commercial value. Sir George King designed the interiors of the garden. William Roxburgh filled the area with plants brought from all parts of India and developed extensive barium over the years. 

So, prior to India’s independence, the British people referred to the garden as the East India Company’s Garden. Recently, in 2009, it got its name as the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden in honor of the great scientist.

The Great Banyan Tree: a rare beauty

One of the most famous landmarks of the Botanical Garden that attracts tourists from all corners of the world is the Great Banyan Tree. Reckoned to be the world’s largest tree, it has a circumference of 330 meters approximately. It spreads gloriously over four acres of land, making it as large as a small forest. Though there is no official age record of the Great Banyan, its estimated age is at least 250 years. References to this gigantic tree have been found in travelogues dating back to the early 19th century, thus validating our statement.

After being hit by two great devastating cyclones in the years 1864 and 1867, the main trunk of the Great Banyan got fungus-infected and had to be cut out in 1952. But, because of its thousands of aerial roots, the tree did not cease to thrive and expand. The aerial roots originating from the branches and reaching the ground makes it look like a beautiful canopy of banyan trees. Such is the beauty of this tree that it inspired Brain Aldiss to write a novel, Hothouse, based on it. 

Major attractions of the Calcutta Botanic Garden:

The Calcutta Botanical Garden is the abode of 12,000 perennial plants and thousands of dried out plant species collected from all over the world. Other than the enormous Banyan tree, the garden is adorned with several other beautiful plants brought from Java, Sicily, Brazil, Malaysia, Sumatra, Nepal and other places: 

  • There are mango trees, Cuban Palms, banyan trees, tamarind trees, Bougainvillea, Citrus, Jasmine, Ferns, Hibiscus, the mad tree, mahogany trees, orchids, muli-haired bamboos, creepers, and multiple kinds of cacti. There are also unique floricultural, arboriculture, and aquatic plants.
  • Some exotic species of plants that you can spot here are Bread Fruit Tree, Giant Water Lilies, the Shivalinga Tree, Double coconut, and Krishnabot. 
  • Another interesting fact is that the famous tea cultivated extensively in Darjeeling and Assam was initially developed in the Botanical Gardens. 
  • There is a serpentine lake for tourists to enjoy boating. 
  • The ancient library of the Botanical Garden has an impressive collection. 
Animals that you can spot inside the Calcutta Botanic Garden: 

You can also spot different types of animals inside the Calcutta Botanical Garden premises. Some of them include the Indian Fox, jackals, and the Indian mongoose. A great variety of snakes also inhabit the gardens. 

Which is the ideal time to visit the Calcutta Botanic Garden? 

As the weather of Kolkata is extremely humid in summer and monsoon, winter is the best time to explore the city. So, plan your visit to the Botanical Garden between November and March. 

Conclusion: 

If you are in the city, you must pay a visit to this eco-friendly venue. The entry fee is only Rs 10 for Indian citizens and it remains open from 10 am to 7 pm. Daily walkers of the locality go for a yearly membership available at Rs 200 only. A one-day-trip with friends or family would be enough to explore the gardens. 

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Tree Planting An Exceptional Way To Mitigate The Consequences Of Climate Change

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Kids are ready to plant trees
Nature Talkies

Global warming is the rapid rise in the Earth’s average temperature. It is one of the major reasons behind drastic changes in the climate of several places. Trees are the greatest resource or natural technology that we can use against climate changes due to global warming. One of the easiest as well as cheapest methods of reducing the severe outcomes of climate change is tree planting measures. Planting billions of trees worldwide will effectively remove excess carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. So, environmentalists have suggested restoring the forest cover of the planet. Let us take you on a journey to the beautiful world of trees for better understanding of their capabilities.

Carbon absorption potential of trees:

  • Trees absorb the carbon that is one of the primary greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Plants take help of sunlight energy for performing photosynthesis. During this process they use water and carbon dioxide for creating glucose. In the end, they feed on the carbon and thus maintain a balance in the carbon content of the air.
  • Trees do not just capture carbon dioxide but also assist the soil in capturing and storing carbon. However, it is the oceans that absorb majority of all carbon emissions and suffer the devastating consequences of ocean acid unification.

How many trees do we need to plant to make a significant change?

Nature Talkies

The ‘Global Tree Restoration Potential’ study conducted by several scientists can help us answer this question. They measured the tree cover of the earth with the help of 80,000 satellite images and also mixed those results with climate variables such as topography and soil. The outcome was a global map indicating where more tree planting should take place for best results.

The good side of the story is that almost two-thirds of the planet’s land area have the potential of growing trees and supporting a forestall area. So, planting of billions of trees in the near future can solve our problem of global heating. Agro-forestry is an excellent forest management strategy in this respect.

How fast is the climate changing? When do we act?

Climate change is taking place faster than we can imagine. Therefore, we must act now to control the situation. As per recent studies, 0.9 billion ha of forest cover can easily store 205 giga tonnes of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. So, all nations should join hands and embark on a mission of planting trees in all possible places.

Trees that have higher potential to intake carbon dioxide than others:

The amount of carbon any tree can hold is known as carbon sequestration. They sequester the carbon by storing it in leaves, roots, branches and trunks. So, the trees that can store most carbon dioxide are the ones with dense wood and large trunks. The good thing is that many trees are there that fit this criterion:

  • Pines- Pines do an excellent job in sequestering carbon. The Ponderous, Hispaniola, white and red pines are not just great landscape plants but also beneficial in nature. As pines are extremely tall, their trunks store a lot of carbon dioxide.
  • Oaks- Oaks have dense wood and large canopies, two characteristics required for carbon sequestering. Besides, they are tall and attractive, enhancing the beauty of our planet.
  • Other coniferous and deciduous trees- Other than pine and oak, there is a wide range of conifers and deciduous trees that have fantastic carbon-absorption qualities. Some such deciduous trees are black walnut and horse- chestnut. Christmas tree is again another evergreen species of tree that has great carbon sequestering ability. So, we should focus on planting more of those trees.
Other ways of addressing global warming and climate change:

Other than tree planting initiatives, mitigation efforts to reduce global warming include development of advanced technologies to reduce the rates of carbon emission, preservation of existing forests, coastline protection, lessening the usage of fossil fuels and increasing usage of renewable energy sources like wind power, solar power, hydro-electric power and several others.

Conclusion:

If all us unite and take the vow of making the world a better place to live, soon there will be greenery all around us. With the restoration of forest areas, alterations in global climate will not be the greatest threat anymore.

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Radioactive Contamination: Causes, Effects, And Solutions

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Air pollution
Photo by Mike Marrah on Unsplash

Radioactive contamination or radiological contamination can be defined as the deposition of as well as the presence of harmful radioactive elements on the surfaces of liquids, solids, and gases, even the human body. 

Sources of radiological pollution:

There are both human-made and natural causes of radioactive contamination. Let us try to understand those causes. 

Radioactive contamination may take place when radioactive gases, particles, or liquids are released in the environment. For instance, if a specific radionuclide used for making nuclear medicine is accidentally spilled, people can unknowingly spread the material as they wander about without even knowing it. 

Another reason behind radiological pollution includes processes like nuclear fuel reprocessing that releases radioactive xenon.

Nuclear fallout is the distribution of radioactive contamination by the total number of nuclear explosions that took place in the atmosphere between the 1950s and the 1980s. The exact number is 520. 

Naturally occurring radioactive pollution

A wide range of radionuclides naturally occurs in the environment. Elements such as thorium and uranium, as well as their decay products, exist in soil and rocks. Potassium-40, another primordial nuclide, is present even in the body of human beings. Other nuclides such as carbon-14, which can be found in all living things, are incessantly produced by cosmic rays. Though these are minor levels of radioactivity and therefore, pose little danger. However, they contribute to confusing measurement. 

NORM (naturally occurring radioactive materials) are concentrated or brought to the earth’s surface by human activities such as mining, extraction of gas and coal. 

Harmful outcomes of radioactive contamination

  • Genetic mutations- Radiation has severe effects on genetics. It damages DNA strands and results in a genetic breakup. Infertility, disfigured births, and blindness in infants are depressing outcomes. 
  • Soil infertility- Radioactive materials even pollute the soil when released in the environment. Radioactive elements react with the nutrients present in the soil, thus leaving the soil not just infertile but highly toxic. Crops harvested in such toxic soil spread diseases in both animals and humans. 
  • Diseases- The most common and most dangerous disease related to radiation is cancer. Other such disorders are anemia, hemorrhage, leukemia, premature aging, premature deaths, and cardiovascular complications. Leukemia, for example, is the result of radiation in one’s bone marrow. 
  • Burns- Radiation also gives burns, sores, and red lesions in our skin, sometimes leading to skin cancer. 
  • Cell destruction- Alteration of animal and human cells is another negative impact of radioactive contamination. The human body is unique as it is made up of millions of cells and each of these cells has its distinctive purpose. Radiation distorts these cells, and this explains the permanent failure of several organ systems and organs. So, with excessive pollution around us, deaths and lifelong illness are inevitable. 
Solutions of radioactive pollution:
  1. Proper disposal of radioactive waste- We cannot dispose of dangerous waste like regular waste. It can be either buried or incinerated. Since there are risks of leakage, storage of this waste should take place in concrete, heavy containers. Diluting the radiation is another available option. 
  2. Banning nuclear tests- There is no denying that nuclear power can be extremely destructive. Though the nuclear tests take place in deserts, studies prove that they escape from one ecosystem and reach another, affecting many lives. 
  3. Proper labeling- Containers having radioactive substances need to be clearly labeled so that nobody touches it without protective gear. Labeling is essential as a simple touch of any radioactive material, radiation enters the body. 
  4. Proper storage- Containers containing radioactive materials must be stored properly. To begin with, such materials need to be kept in radiation-proof containers. This will ensure no leakage or seeping during handling. So, proper storage can reduce the number of cases of sudden leakage. 
  5. Alternative sources of energy- Considering its threats and damages to the environment, it is better to discontinue the usage of nuclear power and depend on alternative sources of energy. Energy sources such as wind power, hydro-electric power, and solar energy are environment friendly. 
  6. Reusing- Since it is difficult to dispose or store radioactive waste, recycling and using it for other purposes is a smart option. 
Conclusion:

Nuclear tests need to stop for the greater good of all living organisms of the earth. 

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