Elephant numbers increasing in KAZA-TFCA
A recent survey conducted across the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) shows the number of elephants in the region has increased steadily over the last eight years.
The estimated jumbo population for the area was calculated at 227, 900, compared to 216, 917 when the survey was last conducted in 2014/15.
KAZA TFCA consists of: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, all countries with international borders along the Okavango and Zambezi River basins.
Ministers responsible for tourism and conservation in the respective nations gathered in the Zambian city of Livingstone recently for the release of the survey results.
Zambian Minister of Tourism, Rodney Sikumba was full of praise for the initiative and all those who took part, noting the feedback gained would be invaluable moving forward.
“Flying over the expansive terrain, adhering to rigorous scientific standards, while surveying Africa’s largest elephant population, is a testament to the collective dedication and perseverance of all involved,” he said, adding the survey’s results would help in human-wildlife co-existence and also facilitate integrated land-use planning.
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The Executive Director of the KAZA Secretariat, Dr Nyambe Nyambe explained they undertook the aerial survey to provide an accurate estimate of the number of live elephants, carcasses, and other large herbivores in the region.
“The survey was the first of its kind to cover five countries through a synchronized flight plan using the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) aerial survey standards,” he said.
Of the five countries, four experienced a slight growth in their elephant populations. Zambia was the odd one out, where the figures make for worrying reading as their jumbo numbers endured a drastic drop from 6, 688 to 3, 840.
World-famous as a safe haven for the giant mammal, Botswana led the way, seeing its jumbo inhabitants increase from 129, 939 to 131, 909.
Zimbabwe’s population rose from 57, 398 to 65, 028; Namibia’s from 19, 549 to 21, 090 and Angola’s was clocked at 5, 983 up from 3, 395.
The survey also showed an elevated mortality, with an overall carcass mortality standing at 10.47 percent, meaning just shy of 24, 000 carcasses were spotted.
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Elephant Survey Coordinator, Darren Potgieter explained there were likely several reasons for this.
“Factors such as aging populations, improved sampling methodologies, environmental conditions, and poaching could all be at play here,” pointed out Potgieter.
Flying the BW flag, in her remarks, Minister of Environment and Tourism, Philda Kereng said the launch meant they have now fulfilled one of the key resolutions of the 2019 Kasane Elephant Summit, which called for KAZA TFCA Member States to ‘Conduct transboundary coordinated and synchronized KAZA wide aerial surveys of elephant (and other wildlife populations) according to standardized methodologies to allow comparability across the KAZA landscape’.
“We should all be very proud of this massive undertaking, which is the first of its kind in the world,” she stressed.
Kereng said while they are pleased that the elephant population is stable, they are concerned with the number of carcasses across the region.
“It is crucial for our research institutions to interrogate the data for what accounts for the spatial distribution and numbers of the carcasses, in efforts to then guide policy makers and practitioners through evidence-based research,” she highlighted.