A new joint report by Save the Elephants and Kenya Wildlife Service is out summarizing preliminary findings of a long-term study on the effects of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), the main road between Mombasa and Nairobi, the Voi-Taveta road and other infrastructural developments on elephant movements and ecosystem connectivity in the Tsavo ecosystem.
The study analyses the extent of the utilization of the of the wildlife crossing structures, exceptional elephant movements, the effect of water distribution on elephant movements and the recently constructed fence along the SGR.
The report makes the following management recommendations:
* From the movement patterns of the collared elephants, it was observed elephants moving in a linear manner following the SGR. It is likely that those elephants were searching for the new underpasses, which was evident from dung deposited around the entrances to underpasses and culverts. The SGR electric fence should be designed to direct/funnel the animals climbing the embankments into the appropriate underpasses, or into specific open culverts along the most densely used sections of the railway. Most crossings were in Ngutuni, Ndara and from DK 167 to DK 180 in the Ndii areas. Wide culverts in that section should ideally not be blocked or fenced off but be left open to increase the number of animal passages and to improve on the ecosystem connectivity.
* The Kenya Highway National Authority must consider constructing wildlife overpasses or vehicle tunnels for the Mombasa Road sections that are adjacent to the SGR underpasses to ensure that elephants can safely cross both the SGR and the newly expanded highway. This is to ensure a reduction in human fatalities at these concentrated wildlife points and minimize wildlife-related road accidents. In the short term, it will be important to erect a series of traffic speed bumps on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway adjacent to all unfenced culverts and underpasses that act as wildlife passages to reduce fatal wildlife-traffic collisions.
* Speed bumps should also be erected on the Voi-Taveta road as elephants are already crossing the newly-tarmacked highway and the likelihood of accidents will increase without them.
* Monitoring of wildlife movements along the SGR should continue for at least one more year with the installation of automated cameras in some of the underpasses so that the impact of these management decisions can be analyzed and used for future infrastructure planning for Kenya.