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KWS conducts elephant census in Shimba Hills as it considers family planning

Date Published: 26 Jul, 2012
KWS conducts elephant census in Shimba Hills as it considers family planning

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is considering experimenting on family planning methods on targeted elephant population in the isolated Shimba Hills ecosystem.

According to Dr. Shadrack Ngene, KWS Elephant Program Coordinator, the 250 km2 ecosystem consisting of Shimba Hills National Reserve and adjacent Mwalunganje Community Elephant Sanctuary,  cannot in the long-term sustain the growing elephant numbers, estimated at minimum of 274, and other species population. The ecosystem is located 30 km southwest of the coastal city of Mombasa.

“Family planning is recognized as a method of controlling elephant population for isolated ecosystems. The ecosystem is fenced and surrounded by farming communities on the peripheries. The current density of about one elephant per square kilometer is unsustainable in the long-term and could lead to habitat degradation,” said Dr. Ngene.

The three days exercise (beginning July18, 2012) was conducted by experienced aerial and ground observers and GIS experts. A total of 274 elephants, 67 buffaloes and 34 sable antelopes were sighted. Local community members were also involved in the exercise.

Previous census exercise informed the translocation of 150 elephants to the expansive Tsavo ecosystem in 2005. Currently, Kenya has about 37,000 elephants.

KWS scientists are also considering a translocation of Kongoni, Giraffes, and Waterbucks to add to the existing populations of four, three and twelve respectively. Scientists say that these species population are not viable in the ecosystem.

Dr. Ngene said that they are also proposing a land cover changes study to be undertaken in the ecosystem to establish extent of vegetation degradation.

The exercise was funded by KWS and World Bank to a tune of Kshs. 1.7m.

KWS is undertaking wildlife census in the country as a build-up to CITES Conference of Parties (COP) 16 meeting scheduled in Thailand city of Bangkok in March 2013.

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