The Mount Kenya Elephant Corridor (MKEC) reconnects a 14km traditional elephant migratory pathway between Laikipia and Samburu dramatically reducing human-elephant conflict. A true conservation success story serving both wildlife and people.
Historically elephants have migrated between Mount Kenya and the Ngare Ndare Forest to reach the lower drier Samburu country to the north and to browse the greener vegetation of the mountain to the south. Seasonality dictates their search for food, mates and minerals.
Elephant populations in the region consist of the Mount Kenya National Reserve, home to an estimated 2,600 elephants (Vanleeuwe, 2016). This population was linked to a larger landscape of metapopulations including the Aberdares population, which is estimated at 1,800 elephants (Bitok & Kones, 2005); the Laikipia-Samburu population, which is estimated at 6,400 elephants (Ngene et al., 2013) and the Meru population, which is estimated at 270 (Mwangi et al., 2007).
The Mount Kenya elephant corridor allows elephants from the forests on the north of the mountain to move further north and west to the Ngare Ndare forest, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Borana and other protected areas and vice versa.
By allowing elephant access to their land these farms have effectively turned back the clock for elephant migration in the area. Communities in the area are better protected and the elephants are safer and free to migrate to other areas in search of food, minerals and mates as a result. Elephants in particular can cause enormous damage through crop raiding, fence and property destruction. This reduces livelihoods and food security within affected communities while significant man-hours are lost chasing elephants. Loss of life for both man and animal is not uncommon therefore neighbouring communities feel direct benefits from the MKEC.
Countless wildlife species now benefit from the protection, safe passage and habitat of the Corridor. Last year over 1000 elephants used the underpass a figure up from 600 in 2013 (see Table 1). Not only elephants but many other wildlife are frequently recorded including bushbuck, duicker, jackal, leopard, zebras, porcupine, reedbuck, serval cat, spotted hyena, warthog, wild dog. Even a lost rhino wandered in!
Table 1: MKT Underpass Data 2013-2015 (Data: LWC)
Each species is genetically and physically more robust if they are able to move freely and unharmed between protected and areas away from human interaction and conflict. Recorded prior to the construction, the initial numbers of crossings in the Corridor area were around 15 per year. Annually these now reach over 1000 elephant crossings.
The Mount Kenya Trust spearheaded this project with the help of the key corridor partners, which include Marania Farm, Kisima Farm and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, who jointly manage the project via the Elephant Corridor Committee. The Mount Kenya Trust has a team of fencers who check and maintain the corridor fences on a daily basis, working closely with the security teams on the two farms.
Global recognition of the project’s success was awarded when the UNESCO World Heritage Site for Mount Kenya National Park and Reserve was extended to include the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, giving the functionality of the corridor huge global recognition and a boost to our important conservation work in the region. The Elephant Underpass is the first of its kind in East Africa. It traverses the busy A2 national highway with hundreds of vehicle passing every day (now 360degree view on Google Earth!)
Over the past 12 years the Trust has fenced off most of the western side of the mountain with the help of communities and KWS in an effort to help protect community shambas, (farms) and their livelihoods from being destroyed. Communities who live on the boundary of the fences can better understand the need to utilise the forest sustainably and respect wildlife if their farms are protected.
The majority of the Trust’s fences are two-strand solar fences, which are easy to maintain. The communities check and look after their own fences, but we employ two fencers to help take care of major repairs and maintenance issues, with the help of the Trust’s Field Co-ordinator and the KWS Fence Technician.
Now Rhino Ark have started construction of a ‘total’ or full game proof fences around Mount Kenya on the eastern side of the mountain which will meet up with the fences on the north and western sides that were constructed by MKT, KWS and other NGO’s. They plan to upgrade all these fences, working in partnership with the key stakeholders. The Trust has made a significant contribution to the Chogoria section of this fence thanks to donor support.