An aerial elephant population survey is now underway in the trans-boundary ecosystem of Tsavo West National Park. The exercise has been supported by various stakeholders, including Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants, Africa Elephant Fund, Save the Elephants and Tsavo Trust. A number of pilots have also volunteered to join the exercise conducted every two years.
The Tsavo elephant census usually covers Mkomazi in Tanzania, Tsavo West, Tsavo East and Chyullu Hills national parks, South Kitui National Reserve as well as the surrounding areas.
This survey also affirms the ongoing partnership between TANAPA (Tanzania Parks and Wildlife) and KWS (Kenya Wildlife Services) when it comes to trans-boundary activities, which benefits both organizations and both countries.
The game count commenced yesterday and was officially launched at the Sarova Taita Hills Lodge. The survey is also expected to bring some new insights into the migration patterns of elephant in the area, which in recent years has seen a significant increase of human – wildlife conflict, compelling the Kenya Wildlife Service to fence sections of the Tsavo West National Park to keep the elephant in, though periodic breakouts by large groups of elephant continues to pose a problem when they then raid crops and have to be driven back into the park at considerable cost.
Mr. Udoto said the census would seek to establish the population, trends and distribution of elephants as well as map out human activities inside and outside the protected areas. Policy makers “The results help policy makers and park management make sound decisions on resource allocation for security operations and conflict management,” he said yesterday. The Tsavo ecosystem census started in 2002 and is conducted every three years.
Udoto said previous aerial census in 2011 in the same area showed that the elephant population stood at 12,572 up from 11,696 recorded in the 2008 census. He said the census is a requirement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Now there are some concerns, considering the poaching increase over the past three years, that the numbers may be rather different this time.