Results from the just-concluded aerial census in Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem show that the elephant population now stands at 12,572 up from 11,696 recorded in the last census in 2008, a modest 2 percent annual increase.
Held every three years, the aerial counts are conducted to establish the trends of elephants in the expansive Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem. Censuses are a requirement of the CITES elephant monitoring programme.
Mkomazi in Tanzania, Tsavo West, Tsavo East, Chyullu Hills national parks, South Kitui National Reserve as well as the outlaying areas of Taita ranches and Mackinnon area in Kwale were covered in the six-day total aerial census for elephants and large mammals co-funded by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Secretariat and other stakeholders.
Aerial counts of the Tsavo ecosystem have been carried out since the 1960’s. The results help policy makers and park management make sound decisions on resource allocation for security operations and conflict management.
Nine aircraft with GPS technology were used to cover of the 46,437 square kilometres area. Other animals counted besides elephants in the Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem were buffalo, giraffe, wild dogs, rhino, eland and lion as well as large birds such as ostrich.
"The elephant is Kenya's flag-ship species and so its distribution and condition is a good indicator of the status of our wildlife," Dr. Kipng'etich, the KWS director, said while releasing the results at tallying centre at Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge.
The census is part of a global elephant monitoring system, a directive from the 173-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The results form the basis of wildlife trade related decisions on ivory trade.
The census is conducted every three years since elephants give birth every four years.
Kenya has a national population of about 30,000 elephants, with an estimated 12,572 found in the Tsavo/Mkomazi ecosystemThe joint mass of Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks forms one of the largest national parks in the world and covers a massive 4 per cent of Kenya’s total land area.
Tsavo West, the famous of the two, lies to the west of Nairobi-Mombasa Road, same distance between Nairobi and Mombasa, and is painted on a sprawling canvas of endless skies, emerald hills, liquid lava flows, palm fringed rivers, teeming wildlife and sparkling oases set against the unforgettable backdrop of mile upon mile of cloud-shadowed African savannah.
The attractive sites of Tsavo West include Mzima Springs with the lush, hippo-heaving pools, ancient land of ‘man-eaters of Tsavo’, Shetani lava flow, the Chaimu Crater, panoramic poacher’s lookout point, Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary, glorious game drives with herds of dust-red elephant, fat pods of hippo, giant crocodile, teeming herds of plain game, a rich bird life and some magical flora.
At 40,000 km², the Tsavo ecosystem hosts the largest elephant population in Kenya.
Tsavo East and West National Parks occupy an area of about 21,000 km² with the remaining area being occupied by private ranches, wildlife sanctuaries, sisal plantations, farming settlements and eco-tourism enterprises.
About the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is a State corporation established by the Act of Parliament, CAP 376, with a mandate for wildlife conservation and management in Kenya. It also has a sole jurisdiction over 26 national parks and oversight role in the management of 33 national reserves and private sanctuaries.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats.