How many elephants are in the Southern circuit of Tanzania?
Results of the second ever landscape wildlife survey confirm that elephant numbers in southern Tanzania have stabilized in an area that was amongst the hardest hit by ivory poachers in the last decade.
The Wildlife Conservation Society which conducted the study reveals that the precinct has nearly 20,000 elephants as of latest count.
These are the findings of the Katavi-Rukwa and Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystems Aerial Wildlife Census.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) worked together with the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA)to coordinate the census.
An estimated 19,884 elephants were recorded during the 20-day aerial survey.
The survey encompassed 34,445 square miles, translating into 89,213 square kilometers of the Katavi-Rukwa and Ruaha-Rungwa landscapes, including national parks, game reserves, and other protected areas.
The Katavi-Rukwa and Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystems, according to the study results, were found to feature an increase or stability in the number of wildlife populations.
How Many Zebras, Giraffes and Impalas?
In addition to elephants, the survey confirmed the status of 25 other key large mammal species.
The most abundant species included 56,184 buffalo, 15,773 zebras, 13,427 hartebeests, 10,200 sables, 9,824 impalas, 6,071 roans, 6,017 elands and 4,823 giraffes.
But the importance of surveying the entire ‘elephant landscape’ was confirmed during previous work supported by WCS in 2018, but this survey was extended to also include two critical wildlife corridors.
The results also confirm that this landscape remains the most important in Eastern Africa in terms of elephant numbers and contains the largest population on the continent outside of Zimbabwe and Botswana.
The lowest number of elephant carcasses since the late 2000s was recorded with the ratio of carcasses to live elephants, indicative of natural rather than human-caused mortality.
Over the last eight years, WCS has targeted reducing elephant poaching across the landscape.
Working with wildlife authorities and local communities, the development of key capacities, protection infrastructure, improved mobility, communication, and monitoring have been fundamental to this effort.
Many of the approaches have since been more widely adopted, including the deployment of quick reaction and boat teams, as well as SMART law enforcement monitoring.
Villagers in detail
Local communities, through land-use planning and the establishment of Joint Village Land Forest Reserves, are also protecting key wildlife corridors.
“Since the last census in 2018, the elephant population of the Katavi-Rukwa and Ruaha-Rungwa landscape has not decreased further, which is good news,” says Eblate Mjingo, the Director General of TAWIRI as quoted by WCS.
Mjingo says Poaching has been controlled, as evidenced by the stabilization of the elephant population numbers and the rarity of fresh elephant carcasses.
On his part, Simon Lugandu, WCS Tanzania Country Director adds; “We are extremely encouraged by these survey results.”
“The results confirm the belief that stability has indeed returned to the elephant population and highlight the positive impact of our actions, clearly demonstrating that ivory poaching has been reduced to the lowest levels in almost all areas.”
The fact that elephants were encountered across the landscape reinforces the need for all future surveys to be conducted at this scale, while the results from wildlife corridors provide important guidance for our work with local communities there as well.”
An alarming decrease in puku was recorded – highlighting the need to strengthen the management of this species on the shores of Lake Rukwa.
The aircraft for the survey work was provided by WCS and TAWIRI (through TANAPA and TAWA), and funded by WCS, Wyss Foundation and the Government of Tanzania.