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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.

Cessna over Serengeti
FZS aircraft during the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem Census in May. (Photo: Felix Borner)

(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.





Frankfurt Zoological Society

Laura Borner
(p): + 255 783 000 431

(e): lauraborner@fzs.org


High-resolution images are available on request.