The role of environmental, structural and anthropogenic variables on underpass use by African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Tsavo Conservation Area

Koskei, Michael; Kolowski, Joseph; Wittemyer, George; Lala, Frederick; Douglas-Hamilton, Iain; Okita-Ouma, Benson (2022). The role of environmental, structural and anthropogenic variables on underpass use by African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Tsavo Conservation Area. Global Ecology and Conservation, 38, e02199. Elsevier 10.1016/j.gecco.2022.e02199

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Wildlife crossing structures are effective interventions for mitigating fragmentation of habitats by linear infrastructure. The 2017 construction of a new railway cutting through the Tsavo Con- servation Area (TCA), home to the largest elephant population in Kenya, affected wildlife movement and habitat connectivity. Although numerous studies have investigated the use of wildlife crossing structures by a wide range of species, few have focused on their use by mega- herbivores. In this study, we examined use of 41 wildlife crossing structures by African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) along a 133 km section of new railway in Tsavo, Kenya. We used a generalized linear mixed modeling approach to assess the relationship between elephant crossing rate over 28 months between July 2017 to April 2021 and explanatory factors including crossing structure attributes, livestock presence and proximity to highways, water points and human settlement. We found that structural attributes of crossing structures were most strongly associ- ated with the elephant crossing rate, particularly height and its interaction with type of crossing structure (bridges, wildlife underpasses and culverts). Higher crossing structures were associated with higher crossing rate, with the largest influence of height at culverts and wildlife underpasses. Although bridges comprised only 19.5 % of the 41 available crossing structures, they accounted for a disproportionately high number of elephants crossing events (56 %). The results demon- strated the importance of bridges over designated crossing structures for elephants, with pre- dicted seasonal counts of elephant crossings being 0.31 for average sized culverts, 2.88 for wildlife underpasses and 5.86 for bridges. The environmental and anthropogenic variables were not strongly associated with elephant crossing rate. Our findings have direct application for future siting and design of crossing structures across elephant range

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Wyss Academy for Nature


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)








Andreas Heinimann

Date Deposited:

18 Aug 2022 12:34

Last Modified:

21 Aug 2022 02:13

Publisher DOI:





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