Lewa Downs – Few thought it would work. Even the experts gave it no chance. But 24 hours after the road underpass opened, the bull elephant slowly stepped through and re-established safe passage on an ancient trail.
Reaching high into the clouds, Mount Kenya is a waypoint on the elephant’s inbuilt GPS. For centuries, herds in this part of Africa have trodden the route back and forth across the equator to Mount Marsabit in the north.
Then came agricultural fields – and a road network. The old elephant paths were blocked by either cash crops of flowers and tomatoes, or by lorries thundering on tarmac through the foothills.
The elephants took the easy route and fed themselves along the way. Entire crops were destroyed overnight and livelihoods ruined. Elephants were sometimes killed in retaliation.
“The situation was bad,” said Mike Watson of theLewa Wildlife Conservancy. “So we negotiated an elephant corridor, a fenced route, which passes through the agricultural lands. We built the underpass under a busy freeway and now hundreds of elephants travel up and down every year.”