A research by conservation scientists has discovered that elephants in Tsavo National Park are crossing the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) lines by climbing over the embankment and sliding down the other side.
Elephants experts drawn from Save the Elephants (STE) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) found that despite the provisions of underpasses, faunal passages and other Tsavo ecosystem connective openings, elephants were still climbing over the steep embankment to cross the SGR tracks.
In the study titled ‘Movement of Satellite-linked collared elephants and other wildlife in relation to SGR and Highways in Tsavo Ecosystem’, the researchers, who also included Tsavo Trust and Wildlife Works, recommended that both sides of the rail line embankment be fully fenced off with an electrified elephant-proof fence to avoid collision between the train and jumbos.
The report warns that a collision at the tracks between a train travelling at 120km/hr and a jumbo would be disastrous for passengers, the train and the elephant. The study, done between March and September 2016, involved close monitoring of 10 elephants that were collared with satellite transmitters to map out their movement inside and outside the Tsavo conservation area.
The research largely focused on 135-km of Standard Gauge Railway section inside Tsavo National Park, Nairobi-Mombasa highway sections along the SGR and the newly-constructed 90-km Voi-Taveta highway.
The study established that 1,036 SGR crossing by wild animals had occurred by October. This was either through the designated animal underpasses or by climbing over the embankment with 768 crossings by elephants alone.
The study says elephants had climbed over the SGR embankment that supports the rail tracks a record 598 times. Only 170 times did the jumbos use the designated passages to move from one side of the railway tracks to the other.