by Christine Lagat,
Lu Duobao TSAVO (Xinhua) -- The sight
of elephants foraging unperturbedly in the idyllic scrublands of
Kenya’s Tsavo National Park could provide a perfect background
for shooting a timeless motion picture.
The oldest and
largest wildlife sanctuary in the African country is a prized
destination for anyone in search of tranquility owing to its
vast repository of flora and fauna.
In the park, the China-funded Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)
snakes through an estimated 133-km stretch of plains covered by
shrubs, small hills and temporary water points.
The SGR will connect the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi and
Mombasa, the historic port of the ancient Maritime Silk Road and
now an important node of the China-proposed Belt and Road
Initiative in East Africa.
Thanks to engineering prowess and environmental consciousness
from China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the SGR’s
contractor, the modern railway line has not diluted the pristine
allure of the Tsavo National Park, contrary to fears voiced by
Along the track, wide underpasses have been installed at
short intervals to facilitate the movement of small and large
The CRBC has also erected a fence on both sides of the track
to keep wild animals at bay.
Inside one of the culverts established by the Chinese
company, large footprints of lions and small herbivores could be
Kenyan conservationists have hailed efforts by the CRBC to
limit ecological harm to the Tsavo National Park as a result of
passage of the SGR project.
Benson Okita Ouma, the head of monitoring at Save the
Elephants, a conservation lobby group, said the crossing of the
railway through the national park should not be a cause for
alarm since the contractor has adhered to globally acclaimed
"Both the fence and underpasses in Tsavo east and west
national park have effectively facilitated movement of wild
animals as they look for fodder and water," he told Xinhua.
The fence erected by the CRBC straddles a critical wildlife
corridor in the Tsavo West National Park as evidenced by
footprints from carnivores and dung from large mammals.
Ouma said the fence will ensure that there will be minimal
disturbance on wildlife treasures inside the park when the SGR
commences operations in June this year.
"The embankment on both sides of the railway track alongside
underpasses was the right thing to do in order to protect
wildlife from harm," he added.
In March last year, Save the Elephants initiated a project in
conjunction with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to monitor the
movement of elephants at sections of the Tsavo National Park
where the SGR passes through.
Ouma said the project involved collaring of elephants to
enable them to transmit data that would later be analyzed to
ascertain how often they used the underpasses inside the park.
"Preliminary findings revealed that animals were making good
use of some underpasses while others were still crossing over
the railway," he said, adding that elephants, dikdiks and lions
passed through underpasses more often than other wild animals.
Moreover, he said, the fence will prevent animals from
climbing over the SGR to enhance their safety and that of
commuters who are likely to ply Nairobi-Mombasa route using the
high speed train.
Kenyans are optimistic about the SGR project, which is a
critical component of the country’s development blueprint and
will unleash massive economic and social benefits.
The SGR project is also part of the Belt and Road Initiative
envisioned by Chinese leaders to revive ancient trade routes
linking the Asian giant with vast swathes of Africa, the Middle
East and Europe.
As the SGR project snakes through a sizeable stretch of
Kenya’s largest wildlife sanctuary, local officials said its
benefits far outweighs any perceived ecological threat.
Shadrack Ngene, assistant director in charge of ecological
monitoring at KWS, said Kenya has sound legal safeguards to
ensure that infrastructure development does not threaten
"Right now, we cannot predict any harm that the SGR project
might inflict on Tsavo ecosystem since the contractor put
adequate safeguards in place to mitigate threats to wildlife,"
The Belt and Road Initiative refers to the initiative on the
construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century
Maritime Silk Road. Proposed by China in 2013, it aims to build
a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe
and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes. It has won
support from over 100 countries and international organizations.