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Kenya and Tanzania joint wildlife census in Amboseli

Date Published: 05 Mar, 2010
Kenya and Tanzania joint wildlife census in Amboseli

Gazelle against Mt. Kilimanjaro in Amboseli

Kenya on  4th march, 2010 afternoon successfully completed her part in the joint aerial cross-boarder wildlife census with Tanzania in the Greater Amboseli ecosystem. The Tanzanian team is expected to finish the exercise by the weekend.Preliminary results on key species indicate that all is not lost, contrary to earlier fears on the adverse effects of the prolonged drought. Official results will be released next week but tentative results indicate that the wildebeest, zebra and elephant populations were not as adversely hit by the prolonged as initially feared.
The census activity was part of a five-day exercise targeting large mammals conducted at an estimated cost Sh3, 250,000 on the Kenyan side. It involved 50 census officials, including pilots, GIS experts, data entry clerks and technical observers. The census used five aircraft, seven vehicles and other technical equipment.  On the Kenyan side, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) partnered with African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE), private sponsors and the local community. Their operational base was at Ol Tukai Lodge in Amboseli National Park. 
The Tanzanian side, whose operational base remains at Kilimanjaro International Airport, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) is working with Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and other stakeholders.
The census covered the entire 14,000 km square Amboseli ecosystem, including the 390 km square Amboseli National Park and the surrounding community ranches, Nguruman-Magadi Area in Kajiado as well as the West Kilimanjaro region up to Lake Natron in Tanzania. Kenya Wildlife Service has been carrying out regular aerial census every three years in the Amboseli ecosystem, the last one having been carried out in 2007. The census seeks to establish the ecosystem’s wildlife population size and distribution determine how the distribution and abundance of large herbivores relate to vegetation types and human activities as well as assess habitat degradation. The census data will also include observations on habitat conditions, water distribution, livestock numbers, human settlement patterns, illegal activities, and other attributes associated with land use changes in the ecosystem.
The information gathered from such censuses is used for planning and preparing park managements for possible wildlife security and human-wildlife conflict eventualities in any ecosystem. In addition, wildlife census information is also used to advise communities on areas that sustain high number of wildlife species and are potential sites for establishment of community conservancies and ecotourism projects.
This year’s census is particularly crucial given that the ecosystem was among the hardest hit areas by the prolonged droughts of 2008 and 2009, which led to massive mortalities of zebra, wildebeest, elephants and buffaloes as well as livestock from the local communities. From March 8 to 12, 2010, the census team will assemble in Arusha, Tanzania, to compile a joint report on the census results. Thereafter, a dissemination workshop is scheduled to be held the following week in Amboseli National Park. The results will also be posted on the KWS website
Wildlife censuses are integral components of conservation and management of biological resources within National Parks, Reserves and adjacent dispersal areas owned by local communities. Such areas are important in sustaining wildlife populations during certain seasons. Aerial counts are part of KWS policy of continuous ecological monitoring and species inventory.
Aerial counts in Amboseli ecosystem have been conducted since the 1990s, with the last one having been carried out on May 24 to 29, 2007. During the 2007 census, total counts of elephants, giraffes, elands and buffalos were done. Other wildlife species and livestock that could be seen from the aircraft were estimated to establish their relative abundances and distributions.
Amboseli National Park remains a crucial dry season refuge for wildlife for the bigger ecosystem due to the availability of numerous marshy swamps. The park has the highest concentration of most species, particularly the plain game and the large carnivores especially during the dry season. The concentration of wild animals during the dry seasons is mainly attributed to availability of water, flush forage and security.

For further information and clarifications,

Contact:
Erustus Kanga
Head of Ecological Monitoring & Biodiversity Information Management
Telephone 0722-778429,  Email: ekanga@kws.go.ke

 

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