By Kevin Heath
The provisional results of the aerial survey of elephants in the Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem released today show that there is an elephant population of about 11,000. That is a reduction of about 1,500 on the population from the last survey about 3 years ago. Considering the surge in global elephant poaching the ecosystem is currently holding up well.
Mr Ben Kavu, the KWS Deputy Director in charge of Devolution and Community Wildlife Service, this morning announced the provisional results at census tallying centre at Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge. According to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) press release today they believe the survey to show that elephant numbers in the ecosystem are stable and offer hope for growth in the future:
"This finding indicates that the elephant population in the Tsavo ecosystem is fairly stable and has potential for growth, according to Dr Erustus Kanga, the Kenya Wildlife Service Senior Assistant Director for Biodiversity.
Since 1999 when systematic counts were started, the elephant population has oscillated as follows: 1999 (9,447 elephants) 2002 (9,284), 2005 (11,742), 2008 (11,733), 2011 (12, 573), and 2014 (11,076)."
The 48,656 square kilometres of Tsavo-Mkomazi was surveyed over 4 days last week and involved the use of 15 aircraft from the KWS and partner organisations:
- 5 aircraft from KWS,
- 4 aircraft from David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust,
- 1 aircraft each from: Tsavo Trust, Masai Wilderness Conservation Trust, Save The Elephants, William Craig, Peter Zennetti and Rod Evans.
GPS equipment was used to record the elephant populations and other large animals including zebra, buffalo, giraffe, wild dogs, rhino, eland and lion as well as large birds such as ostrich.
The Tsavo-Mkomazi is a trans-border ecosystem and officials from the Tanzania National Parks Authority were also involved in the count.
The ecosystem survey was at a landscape level and included land not covered by protected areas or national parks.
In order to help wildlife that live outside current protected areas the KWS have promised to provide county governments in the country all the help and technical support needed in order to bring other land into protected status. an example of this is 10,000 acres piece of land in the Bachuma area of Tsavo that has been identified by Taita Taveta County Governor Mr John Mruttu and his officials.
While numbers of elephants have dropped since the last survey the figure of 11,000 is within stable long-term trends despite and increase in threats to the animals since the last survey. These include greater poaching, land-use changes, encroachment on national parks and tree-loss due to charcoal production.