Save The Elephants and Kenya Wildlife Service. Typescript 28 pages
The new Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) linking Mombasa to Nairobi became officially operational in June 2017. It is a flagship project for Kenya under Kenya’s blue print Vision 2030, whose goal is to transform Kenya into a middle-income industrialized economy by 2030. More than a quarter i.e., 135 km of the 487 km railway is through the Tsavo Conservation Area, bisecting the range of Kenya’s largest surviving single elephant population of 12,800 animals, as well as many other wildlife species. This presents a challenge. While the old railway line lay level with the ground, the new SGR is elevated up to 10 metres in some sections and fenced on either side, creating a substantial barrier to wildlife movement with likely negative consequences. The contractor of the SGR, the China Roads and Bridges Cooperation, built six official wildlife passages to connect Tsavo East to Tsavo West National Parks and Tsavo East to the Taita Ranches to allow animals to travel in search of food, water and mates. The 2 km Tsavo River super bridge, the Kenani and the Maungu railway crossing bridges makes a total of nine wildlife passages. Save the Elephants in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service has been tracking elephants to understand the effectiveness of these passages. We fitted ten elephants (eight along the SGR and two along the Voi – Taveta road) with GPS satellite radio transmitters in March 2016. In June 2016, we initiated systematic vehicle and foot monitoring along the SGR of elephants and other species, not fitted with radio transmitters, by using their signs such as footprints and dung. Some elephants have used them effortlessly, with families in tow, while others have preferred to use the culverts and bridges that perforate the line but which have not officially been classed as wildlife passages. Even though the details of other wildlife species crossings are not reported here, it is important to highlight here that giraffes generally avoided any form of underpasses with only one footprint recorded on 13th March 2017 at culvert DK234+062. Generally, however the culverts offer an opportunity for wildlife crossing points between the two sides of Tsavo National Park and adjoining ranches keeping genetic diversity open and a flow of inter-seasonal movements.