Results from an extensive wildlife census indicate a dramatic decline of the elephant population in the Selous Ecosystem, highlighting increased need for protection efforts: 13,084 elephants remain where over 100,000 roamed in the 1970s.
(Seronera, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, 10 January 2014) Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—and its surrounding ecosystem, has lost an estimated 67 per cent of its elephants in just four years, a new census has revealed. The Selous, once home to Africa’s second largest elephant population, has suffered such heavy ivory poaching that only an estimated 13,084 elephants remain.
The elephant poaching epidemic continues to escalate across Africa, threatening the future of these magnificent animals. In 1976 an estimated 109,419 elephants inhabited the Selous Ecosystem, an area of over 87,000 km2—twice the size of Switzerland. Citing this figure in his end-of-year address, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete warned that without action “after a few years we might not have a single elephant.”
Quelling the poaching crisis is crucial for conservation efforts, as well as Tanzania’s economy and natural heritage. The Selous Ecosystem is one of the largest remaining wilderness areas in Africa, and an important tourist destination. Protecting the natural resources of the Selous is a local, national, and global priority, but significant challenges remain.
“The future of elephants hangs in the balance, and we’re calling on the international community to unite in a concerted effort to support the Tanzanian government as they strive to secure the Selous,” said Head of the Africa Programme for FZS, Robert Muir.
In a decisive move to establish an accurate assessment of the situation, the Tanzanian Government commissioned a collaborative aerial survey to monitor the current population numbers of wildlife in the Selous Ecosystem, paying particular attention to elephants. The Director of Wildlife, Professor Alexander Songorwa, instructed the Tanzania Wildlife and Research Institute (TAWIRI) and Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) to coordinate a census in the Selous to the highest international standards. Participating organizations also included the Tanzanian National Parks (TANAPA), Save the Elephants, African Elephant Specialist Group (IUCN), and the Kenyan Department for Remote Sensing.
To aid in this effort, FZS helped finance and raise funds from the German government, through BMZ and GIZ, who funded the survey. The count took place in October 2013 after extensive planning.
Wildlife surveys have been carried out in the Selous since 1976, and are considered a critical monitoring tool for management efforts on the ground. The information gathered from each survey provides crucial insight into the ecosystem’s health, ultimately helping to drive management strategies.
“The 2013 Selous elephant census was a landmark event. A team of Tanzanian and international scientists, convened by TAWIRI, planned a model wildlife count for maximum credibility. The results confirm that the elephant population has been decimated, but also give hope for Tanzania to plan for the recovery of this most important elephant population, with united international support”, said Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants and participant in the Selous Count planning process. Video.