Mountain Bull Makes Use of the Underpass
Mountain Bull is a big celebrity around Lewa, northern Kenya and beyond. The 45-year old bull was propelled to fame a few years ago as a result of his dedication to using the traditional elephant migration routes in northern Kenya. Like several other elephants in the Laikipia, Samburu and Mount Kenya ecosystems, Mountain Bull (often referred to simply as MT Bull) has also worn a collar fitted by Save the Elephants for the past few years, and has been tracked using Google Earth Interface. However, the very clever elephant has of late developed a penchant for risky behaviour: using his tusks to snap fence wires and open gates, granting him a free pass into farms.
MT Bull was also gaining notoriety for his refusal to use the elephant underpass, preferring to go through both commercial and small-scale farms while migrating between the Ngare Ndare Forest, Lewa and Mount Kenya, causing human-wildlife conflict in the region. Amongst the Lewa team there was well-founded fear of retaliation, especially from the small-scale farmers. Lewa soon realized the need to intervene to curb the bull’s destructive behaviour and steer him towards using the underpass.
In consultation with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Lewa trimmed MT Bull’s tusks on the 31st of October, 2012, in the neighbouring Borana Conservancy. Close monitoring of the elephant’s behaviour since the exercise has shown a great decline in the rate of fence breakages, with only one recorded case since the exercise took place!
On the 13th of January, the famous elephant made a great stride; he used the underpass for the first time since its construction in January 2011. And on the 22nd of January, on his way to Mount Kenya, he walked the full length of the corridor without veering off his path, another first for the legendary elephant!
MT Bull’s use of the underpass marks a very significant step towards alleviating human-wildlife conflict in the region. We hope that he continues to embrace this route that will not only connect him to the ecosystems that he so dearly loves, but will also put him out of danger.