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Breaking News - Elephant Makes Use of Underpass on New Year's Day

January 06, 2011

The night of 1st January 2011 will go down in the history of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and indeed Kenya when the first elephant – an individual known as "Tony" – made use of the new underpass on the main Nanyuki-Meru Road (A2) adjoining the Ngare Ndare Forest/Lewa with the Mt. Kenya Forest.

This formerly re-establishes the only remaining connection between Kenya’s second largest elephant population of 7,500 animals in Samburu with the estimated 2,000 in Mt Kenya. The establishment of this corridor and the underpass was the brain child of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kisima Farm, Marania Farm, The Bill Woodley Mt. Kenya Trust , the Ngare Ndare Forest Trust and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. The underpass itself was an ambitious idea with many professional conservationists skeptical about its potential success, yet in a short four days after the underpass was opened, the first elephant passed through. The long-term implications of the success of this corridor are massive in terms of re-establishing genetic connectivity between these two elephant populations, reducing the habitat pressure within Lewa, and being a key element on the application for inclusion as a World Heritage Site with Mt. Kenya.

As a follow up to this success and recognizing the need for credible information on the movement of elephant, Dr. Iain Douglas Hamilton together with Save the Elephants (STE) provided the equipment and technical backup to collar a total of seven elephant on either side of the corridor. Four of these animals were collared by KWS on the 2nd of January 2011, including the pioneering bull “Tony” who first stepped into the new underpass. Also collared was a massive bull “Kazita” with ivory estimated at over 70 pounds per side living in the forest on the Mt. Kenya side of the corridor. With the current upsurge in poaching this animal is seen as a prime target and through STE’s new technology that has been developed within the collar, it will inform the responsible authorities if this animal was to be poached.

2011 has kicked off to a wonderful start and once again Lewa is pioneering new thinking in conservation and catalyzing the restoration of these historical migration routes. As this exciting development progresses, we will continue to keep you informed and share the movement of these animals in the coming months.