Meru National Park, situated in northern Kenya, covers an area of 870 square kilometers. It straddles the equator about 370 kilometers northeast of Nairobi.
It is fringed on its western boundary by the chain of the Nyambeni Hills which raise up to 2500 meters above sea level. These hills, with pockets of protected forests at their top, act as a formidable water catchment system. Thus they are the source of 13 permanent rivers that eventually cut across the Park itself.
Such an abundance of water flowing through a predominantly arid part of Kenya creates a mosaic of different habitats making Meru one of the most diverse Parks in the whole Africa.
Swamps, riverine forests, savannah, sparse and thick bush follow one another producing an astonishing and varied landscape with no parallel in many other Parks of East Africa.
These extremely diverse vegetation type and cover is mirrored by a likewise abundance and diversity of wildlife.
In addition Meru is part of a greater conservation area being contiguous with Bisanadi and Mwingi National Reserves and Kora National Park to its South making the whole protected area at about 4000 km2.
Meru National Park was established in 1967, making it one of East Africa's oldest.
Under the careful supervision of the first Wardens, namely Ted Goss and Peter Jenkins, the Park thrived in the 70’s.
Visitor’s flocked reaching 40.000 presences per year driven to Meru by spectacular landscapes and a rich fauna.
The reputation of the Park was then enhanced by the fact that George and Joy Adamson reared and weaned here Elsa, arguably the most famous lioness in the world thanks to the book “Born Free” and the subsequent movie.
Elsa was returned to the wild in Meru and here she died in 1961 by natural causes.
The Adamsons stayed on and reared in the Park many others orphaned lions.
But then in the eighties disaster struck. Economic crisis left Kenya with few resources to protect its wildlife and poaching became rampant. Most of the elephants of the Park were killed and the rhino population was totally eradicated. When the last four white rhinos were killed the national and international outrage which ensued prompted the Kenya Wildlife Service to massively intervene.
With the help of international donors (mainly IFAW and the French Cooperation) KWS put again the Park under tight security and started to reintroduce in it hundreds of elephants, dozens rhinos and many other species.
All under the guide of a young and energetic new Senior Warden, Mark Jenkins.
Mark, son of Peter one of the first warden of Meru, was injured as a child by one of the Adamson’s lions. This fact did not intimidate him and neither made him lose a life-long passion for Meru.
Under his leadership the Park was restored to its old splendor.
A few wardens succeeded Mark Jenkins. All professional and dedicated men who continued Mark’s work with the same passion and success. The KWS is totally at the helm of the Park conservation and its rangers are among the best trained and motivated of Kenya.
Result: Meru National Park is a showcase of wildlife today as it was in the 60’s and 70’s.
Rhino capture and re-location
From the late 90’s the Kenya Wildlife Service has re-stocked Meru National Park with rhinos both black and white.
These rhinos have been captured, tranquillized, and transported from areas where their population was exceeding its carrying capacity. The 60 rhinos in Meru N.P. at present came mostly from the over-populated Nakuru National Park, Nairobi National Park, and Lewa Downs Conservancy.
If you want to see some images of one of these captures and releases please click here to view the gallery
Affectionately known as Kenya’s complete wilderness, Meru National Park hosts a large population of elephant, hippo, buffalo, lion, cheetah, leopard and innumerable other classic African mammal species.
Meru N. P. is also home to species typical of northern Kenya such as reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, oryx, lesser kudu, which are not to be found in many other National Parks or areas in Kenya.
Birdlife is particularly abundant with more than 300 different species recorded.
A specific mention has to be made for the Rhino Sanctuary. The area devoted to the protection and population increase of rhinos is today about 50 square kilometres and is located on the Western boundary of the Park. Here 40 white and 20 black rhinos roam freely.
The Sanctuary is a success story for Meru. It is faring better than most other areas where rhinos are to be found in Kenya with the best birth rate and the less mortality than any other.
But still it needs some effort and a game drive to locate the beautiful beasts in the huge territory!
More specific information of the wildlife of Meru in the PDF documents provided at a click below:
Meru National Park Birds List (PDF, 700kb)
Meru National Park Mammals List (PDF, 450kb)