Maputo — The Mozambican Ministry of Agriculture on Monday began the second national census of the country's elephant population.
The census, which will last until 15 November, is intended to determine how many elephants are in Mozambique, their geographical distribution, and their relationship with human settlements and poles of development.
The Ministry's National Directorate of Land and Forests is charged with carrying out the census in coordination with the Tourism and Environment Ministries. The data from the census will help determine the intensity of elephant poaching, and will be used in efforts to conserve these animals.
The census is in line with recommendations from the Pan-African Elephant Summit held in 2013 in Gaborone to discuss how to deal with the alarming rise in elephant poaching and trafficking in ivory.
The census will be based on aerial counts of the elephant population, using four light aircraft and a helicopter. These aircraft are expected to fly for about 425 hours during the two month survey. The census is budgeted at around 500,000 US dollars.
When the first Mozambican elephant census was held, in 2008, the elephant population was estimated at 22,000, but subsequent estimates suggest that it has fallen to around 19,000.
Mozambique's elephants are being target by organised criminal gangs, responding to the thriving demand for ivory in Asian countries such as China and Thailand.
A seminar on Monday, organised by the Attorney-General's Office, warned that elephant poaching was now on the scale of “a national disaster”. The onslaught by the poachers means that four or five elephants a day are being killed (more than 1,500 a year). Such losses could push the country's elephant populations towards extinction in as little as 30 years.