KWS prepares for elephant census
23 January 2014, 16:49
Nairobi - The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and various
stakeholders plan to carry out an aerial census of elephants in the
expansive Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem early next month.
KWS said the results of the Feb. 4-10 exercise will help policy
makers and park management make sound decisions on resource allocation
for security operations and conflict management.
"The census will be aimed at establishing the populations, trends and
distribution of elephants as well as map out human activities inside
and outside the protected areas," KWS Corporate Affairs Manager Paul
Udoto said in a statement on Thursday.
According to Udoto, common challenges facing Tsavo's management are
poaching for ivory, human encroachment and habitat destruction,
human-elephant conflict, livestock incursions into the Parks, and the
adverse and emergent effects of climate change such as severe droughts.
The six-day total aerial census for elephants and large mammals was
co-funded by the KWS and the International Fund for Animal Welfare
(IFAW), Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Monitoring of Illegal Killing
of Elephants, Africa Elephant Fund, Save the Elephants and Tsavo Trust.
The statement said a number of pilots have also volunteered to join
the exercise conducted every two years. Tsavo ecosystem censuses have
been conducted every three years since 2002.
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 last
census in 2008.
KWS had then attributed the decline in growth rate to the severe
drought Kenya suffered in 2009, which claimed hundreds of young and aged
"The elephant is Kenya's flag-ship species and so its distribution
and condition is a good indicator of the status of our wildlife," said
The Tsavo census usually covers 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
The Tsavo ecosystem is critical for elephant conservation as it is
home to the largest population of elephants and covers approximately
four per cent of Kenya's landmass.
The fluctuation of Tsavo's elephant populations over the decades has had significant impacts on the ecology of the ecosystem.
In 1967, the ecosystem had some 35,000 elephants while about 5, 400
individuals were left in 1988. Heavy armed poaching and severe drought
were responsible for this rapid decline.
However since the 1990s, concerted efforts by KWS and other
conservation partners have seen elephant populations steadily increase
to the current status.