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Kenya and Tanzania start joint wildlife census in Amboseli
Date Published: 08 Oct, 2013
Kenyan and Tanzanian governments have this morning started a joint aerial count of elephants and other large mammals in the shared ecosystem of the Amboseli- West Kilimanjaro and Natron- Magadi landscape.
The one-week exercise, which is costing Sh12 million, is a collaboration between the two countries and their agencies; the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), Wildlife Division of Tanzania (WD) and Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) together with affiliated non governmental oganisations (NGOs) notably the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) Marwell Wildlife and Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE), private sponsors and members of the local community.
Pilots from KWS, Tsavo Trust, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary as well as two more from Tanzania are helping with the aerial count.
The aerial census seeks to establish the landscape’s wildlife population abundance, trends and distribution. It will enhance knowledge on the relation between wildlife, habitat and human impacts while at the same fostering cross-border collaboration on wildlife monitoring and management between the two East African countries.
The count comes after a similar wet count done earlier in April this year. It is the practice of Kenyan and Tanzania wildlife authorities to conduct both a wet and a dry aerial census every three years in the Amboseli West Kilimanjaro and Magadi Natron cross border landscape. This collaboration started in 2010 and this census is the fourth
The exercise, which is funded by Kenya, Tanzania and various, seeks to safeguard the vast ecosystem that is threatened by human influence that includes pastoral activities, crop farming and proliferation of charcoal burning. This in a huge way affects wildlife dispersal and a huge concern to the future of the area for wildlife conservation.
The information gathered from the census will be also 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.
The operational base for the census will be at the Ol Tukai Lodge in Amboseli National Park and the data collected will include large mammal counts as well as 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 Amboseli-West Kilimanjaro and Magadi -Natron cross- border landscape comprise various ecologically important areas in Kenya and Tanzania. The census will cover 25,623 km2 area including 9,214 km2 of the Amboseli area, 6348 km2 of the Namanga-Magadi areas in south-western Kenya and 3,013 km2 of the West Kilimanjaro and 7,047 km2 of the Natron areas in North Tanzania.
From the last survey report, the elephant population in the area has been relatively stable, with 1,087 individuals counted in the year 2000; 1,090 in 2002 and 967 in 2007 compared to the year 2010 population of 1,266. In the April 2013 census the elephant population was 1930 in the survey area.
There was a dramatic decline in the number of large herbivore species between the years 2007 and 2010 due to the prolonged drought of 2007-2009: wildebeest declined by about 83 per cent from 18,538 to 3,098; zebras declined by about 71 per cent from 15,328 to 4,432; and buffalos declined by about 61per cent from 588 to 231 in the Amboseli area.
However there was noticeable population recovery for several species as revealed by the April count.
There was a general increase in the number of large herbivores between the years 2010 and 2013.
Elephant population increased from 1420 to 1,930 while elephant carcass ratio declined from 3.7% to 1.8%. Wildebeest increased by over 100% from 7,240 to 14,728. Similarly, zebra numbers more than doubled from 13,740 to 29,867 while buffalo population increased by about 72% from 334 to 575. These populations’ increases can be attributed largely to the recovery of the populations after the severe drought experienced in the area between 2007 and 2009 and to a lesser extent the increase in survey area more specifically for elephants.