Explosive Digs May Cut Off Kenya Wildlife Migration

Ochieng' Ogodo in Nairobi, Kenya
for National Geographic News
June 2, 2009

A new rock quarry being excavated with explosives in Kenya's Amboseli National Park may endanger migration corridors of elephants and other wildlife, conservationists say.

The operation has temporarily stopped due to an order issued in May by Kenya's high court, they add.

The quarry, which will provide materials for the new Emali-Oloitoktok Road, is located in the 3,000-acre (1,214-hectare) Osupuku Conservancy.

The conservancy was created in 2008 as a result of an agreement between landowners from the Kimana community and the nonprofit African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). The conservancy protects a corridor linking Amboseli to Kenya's Chyullu Hills and Tsavo National Parks.

"We are not against the building of the road, but [we are against] the area from which the material for the road construction is to be gotten from," said AWF's Fiesta Warinwa.

Sinohydro, the Chinese-owned corporation running the operation, said earlier this year that the project may be relocated.

Since "so many [conservation] organizations [and] the media are concerned, we are now shopping for an alternative site," said Michael Zhang, assistant project manager for the corporation.

But conservationists said that was an empty promise.

"We went to court because we knew the company was not going to move to another site. Any assertions by them to that effect was mere talk, just buying time," Warinwa said.

"We are now using all avenues possible to stop them from excavating the area. … " she said.

Permanent Transformation

If the site does remain, the company will use explosives and heavy machinery to make huge burrow pits, which conservationists say will pose a danger not only to animals but also to people living in the area.

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