An update from the Field, written by our partners at Mount Kenya Trust, Humphrey Munene, Field Coordinator.
Historically, elephants moved between Mount Kenya and the Ngare Ndare Forest and the lower drier country to the north. During their movement, they would pass through Kisima and Marania Farms breaking fence and trampling on the large scale wheat and barley cultivated crop. They were also moving through neighboring community settlements in Subuiga, Kamiti and Ntirirniti settlements areas causing a lot of damage to community farm lands. Human-Elephant conflict in the area was a real issue that time. The idea of elephant corridor was conceived in 2006 after GSM collar data from Mountain Bull informed how elephants migrate to Mt. Kenya and how important the ranches and reserves to the north are to these elephant migration routes. After Kisima and Marania farm agreed to allow part of their land to create a safe elephant passage, a functional corridor became a reality opened in December 2010. The first to pass through it was a bull named Tony, in a historic crossing that has encouraged others to walk through the corridor beneath the major A2 Nanyuki Highway. Since then, dozens of elephants have successfully crossed safely under the major road without putting themselves or motorists in danger, and without damaging crops or scaring residents in a nearby village.
However over the years, some elephant individuals have acquired the skill of breaking through the corridor comprehensive fence even when it is fully powered. It has not been clearly known why some are breaking the fence but occasionally a bull called Mello is suspected to break in search for water especially during dry weather. The corridor maintenance team were able to identify frequently broken section and marked them as hotspots. To stop the fence breaking elephants from breaking in these sections, it was proposed to introduce a short fence along the main fence.
The impact of the elephant corridor project is immense on both elephant families and individuals as well as community members who for a long time had to bear the weight of the Elephant-conflict. The corridor as initially envisaged, has provided protection for a significant population of the African Elephant ensuring genetic diversity and freedom of movement within natural migration zones. Human-wildlife conflict in the area drastically reduced as from December 2010 when the passage became functional. The elephant passage has greatly helped as part of a wider effort that has brought farmers and villagers more onside in the fight against poaching, meaning that elephant poaching cases are no more within the community areas and the adjoining Mt. Kenya forest. Cases of human death as a result of conflict with elephants were completely stopped in community settlement areas. Before the establishment of the corridor the community members were spending long hours in the cold to guard their crops, therefore getting exposed to cold related ailments. These peoples now have better health.