Rock Quarry Could Permanently Transform Elephant Migration


Nairobi, Kenya – A new road is needed in the Kenyan Osupuku Conservancy. And strong stone is needed for the road. A Chinese corporation, Sinohydro, owns a rock quarry, which offers the best stones to build a strong road; a road which wouldn’t need repairs for a long time. However, the rock quarry poses a threat to the aboriginal wildlife of the region.

The Osupuku Conservancy was created in 2008 as a means of protecting elephants. The conservancy is a corridor that links Amboseli to Kenya’s Chyullu Hills and Tsavo National Parks and is a thoroughfare for elephant migration. However, elephants may discontinue using the conservancy if the rock quarry is permitted to continue.

“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 African Wildlife Foundation (AWF)’s Fiesta Warinwa. The quarry is controversial for multiple reasons, but first and foremost may be the use of explosives in creating the quarry.

Michael Zhang, assistant project manager for the Sinohydro corporation said that his company intends to use legal explosives and detonators that are approved by the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Mines.

If permitted to remain, the quarry will use the explosives as well as heavy machinery to create large burrow pits in order to harvest the stone. Conservationists suggest that this would threaten both wildlife and humans in the area.

We also knew that that explosives will affect the animals, and therefore intended to use them in the day, as the animals use the corridor at night and early in the morning,” Zhang said.

But conservationists won’t hear it. It isn’t only the explosives that pose a threat. “With burrow pits all over, certainly there will be no more flow of wildlife to and from the sanctuary,” Warinwa said. And no more flow is bad news. “In ecosystem terms, the connectivity between the national parks would cease to exist,” she said.

This decreased flow of wildlife traffic could be caused by animals becoming trapped in the pits or simply because of the noise disturbance due to the construction. And the effects would reach long after the quarry has been exhausted, too.

The abandoned quarry and remains of the worker campsites will cause a “permanent transformation” of elephant migration, said Soila Sayialel of the nonprofit Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

“The inevitable daily and seasonal passage of elephants on this route may [force] a technical shift that [might] run through peoples’ settlements,” Sayialel said. “Human intolerance is bound to increase, and conflict will occur, with both humans and elephants suffering.”

Zhang tends to disagree. He doesn’t think that the quarry and campsite will extensively interfere with wildlife movement. But since “so many [conservation] organizations [and] the media are concerned, we are now shopping for an alternative site,” he said.

Opponents of the quarry, however, don’t feel the weight of Zhang’s words, calling them “empty promises.” “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.

Despite a temporary stop order issued in May by Kenya’s high court, the quarry operation has continued, adding more transparency to Zhang’s words that the company would “shop around.” And while Sinohydro shops, the hope of elephants in the region dwindles.

More: Find out more about elephants close to home.

Photo Credit: Kleinz1 via flickr under Creative Commons License

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