A ten-day aerial elephant census was concluded over the weekend in the Tsavo Conservation Area. Though the full tally of elephants is yet to be announced, previous results of the exercise which is conducted every three years indicated elephant populations as 11,076 in 2014; 12,573 in 2011 and 11,733 in 2008. The final results will be announced as soon as scientists finish compiling the data.
“Knowing the status of elephants in Tsavo is vital,” noted James Isiche, Regional Director IFAW East Africa. “This is against the backdrop of extreme pressure experienced by the species across Africa, resulting from poaching and conflict. This exercise is therefore important as it helps us to monitor the elephant and large mammal population and their distribution especially in relation to human activities such as developments, crop farming and most recently climate change. In fact, the census is being undertaken in the midst of a severe drought. The information we receive will assist in elephant conservation and management,” he said.
The Tsavo ecosystem is critical in elephant management and conservation as it is home to Kenya’s largest elephant population. At 48,656 square kilometres, the ecosystem covers approximately four per cent of Kenya’s land mass. Of this, 20,812 square kilometres is the protected park area making it one of the world’s largest national parks.
Information obtained from the exercise is interpreted and used by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and other conservation stakeholders to put in place informed security and conservation oriented strategies aimed at enhancing species protection particularly anti-poaching security operations and, strategies to mitigate human wildlife conflict. The findings also inform stakeholders on wildlife range for purposes of securing critical wildlife areas.
Areas that were covered in the census included Mkomazi in Tanzania; Tsavo East, Tsavo West and Chyulu Hills National Parks, South Kitui National Reserve, Taita ranches and Mackinnon area in Kwale.
IFAW participated in this intensive exercise which was mainly funded by USAID, by providing both technical and financial support. The Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) led the exercise and received resources from other organizations including David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), World Wildlife Fund Kenya (WWF –K), Save the Elephants, Tsavo Trust and local community ranches.
Poaching, habitat loss and human-elephant conflict are seen as the greatest threats facing elephant populations. To mitigate these, IFAW undertakes various interventions including: training law enforcement officers in prevention of wildlife trafficking, wildlife security through the revolutionary tenBoma Project, partnering with communities and conservationists to conserve environments and secure space for elephants and, monitoring of elephant migratory routes through elephant collaring.