Kenya Supersizes Wildlife Corridors to Provide Safe Passage for Elephants

african elephants kenya photo

Elephants in Kenya. Photo: Nicolas Barcet / Creative Commons.

Compared to planting "bee roads" or building tunnels for toads, the task conservation groups took on in Kenya was a gargantuan one: Creating Africa's first dedicated elephant underpass, part of a 14-kilometer-long wildlife corridor for the world's largest land animals.The $1 million project, supported by both The Nature Conservancy and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, "has successfully connected two wilderness areas and two distinct elephant populations separated for years by human development," the Associated Press wrote earlier this year when the first elephants made their way through the tunnel. "The elephants successfully crossed a major road without putting themselves or motorists in danger, and without damaging crops or scaring residents in a nearby village."

Easing Human-Animal Conflict
Human-animal conflict is on the rise in both Africa and Asia as wildlands get converted to agricultural use and human settlements encroach ever-closer on animal habitat. A total of 7,000 elephants in Mt. Kenya's highlands and the area's lower plains stand to benefit from the corridor, which allows them to safely range further to find food and mates.

"All over Africa this incredible wildlife is increasingly being fragmented by the growing human population, and if African wildlife is to survive, solutions must be found of this nature, where connectivity is preserved through corridors," Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of Save The Elephants, which spearheaded the project along with the Mount Kenya Trust, told the AP.

French Model For Wildlife Conservation
Now increasingly common, wildlife crossings were first built during the 1950s in France, a model that Air France's in-flight magazine touted while writing about the Kenyan project this month. While in some cases getting animals to use the corridors can be challenging, experts said this was no problem with the African elephants.

"Elephants are incredibly intelligent animals and can sense where there's danger," Susie Weeks of the Mount Kenya Trust was quoted as saying by the Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation. "They are already using the corridor and underpass since they have realized it provides safety for them."

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