Count reveals over 8000 elephants remain in the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem
The Tanzanian and Kenyan Governments have released population estimates from a recent aerial survey carried out in Tanzania and Kenya for the Serengeti Ecosystem suggesting elephant and buffalo numbers are increasing ecosystem-wide.
(Arusha, Tanzania, 21 August 2014)
At the end of May, a wet season total count was conducted to provide estimates of current elephant and buffalo population numbers in the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem. The trans-boundary count was carefully orchestrated as a joint effort between Kenya and Tanzania. Historically, there were challenges to count the border region (the Masai-Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania) simultaneously, which in this year’s count has been a major success of the overall initiative. This trans-boundary collaboration is advantageous for data interpretation, on-going management decisions, and ultimately for sustainable wildlife conservation.
This year’s total count utilised five aircraft, together covering an area of 32,000 km2. A total of over 8,045 elephants were counted in the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem showing an increasing trend from 1986 to 2014. Buffaloes were counted as well, with an estimate of 72,410 individuals. The overall objectives of the survey were to determine the number of elephants and buffaloes, document their distribution across the ecosystem, and record their population trends.
The aerial census was carried out under strict international standards, with highly trained flight and observation crews and utilisation of cameras, voice recorders and GPS to ensure herds were counted correctly.
Most of the elephants counted on the Tanzanian side of the survey were in protected areas, suggesting that pressure from the periphery is evident. Poaching and human encroachment on elephant territory are a real concern.
The Tanzanian side of the count was part of the Great Elephant Census, a Paul G. Allen project. Paul G. Allen is partnering with Elephants without Borders, Frankfurt Zoological Society and numerous organizations across Africa on this bold undertaking to use large-scale research to uncover data and insights that can empower people across Africa as they work to protect elephant populations for the long term.
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
- Frankfurt Zoological Society has made long-term commitments to the protection of areas that are strongholds for elephants and rhinos, including some of the largest and most important savanna areas in Africa. FZS therefore places particular emphasis on working with local partners to identify and implement locally relevant solutions to conservation problems.
- Frankfurt Zoological Society has taken part in animal counts in Serengeti National Park since the Founder of FZS, Professor Bernhard Grzimek, came in 1959 to first count the wildebeest herds. On-going support for aerial surveys has been made possible with the FZS aircraft and technical team over the years.
- The Serengeti-Mara Census was facilitated and coordinated by Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) provided logistical support, while the entire endeavour was made possible by further collaboration with the Wildlife Division (WD) of Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA), Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), WWF Kenya and County Government of Narok.
- The Great Elephant Census is designed to provide accurate and up-to-date data about the number and distribution of African elephants by using standardized aerial surveys of tens of hundreds of thousands of square miles. Dozens of researchers flying in small planes will capture comprehensive observational data of elephants and elephant carcasses. The Census is an opportunity to use large-scale research to uncover data and insights that can empower people across Africa as they work to protect elephant populations for the long term. Flying over more than 18 countries, the Great Elephant Census is the most comprehensive project of its kind to form an essential baseline for future African elephant conservation efforts. Elephant estimates from these surveys will form the basis for conservation management plans for NGOs, wildlife services and governments. Paul G. Allen has provided more than $7 million to fund the continent-wide census.