Southern Africa Elephant Population Increases Amid Concerns Over Mortality
Rate (Gaborone, Botswana)
Mqondisi Dube, VOA via AllAfrica
September 1, 2023
The elephant population in southern Africa has increased by 5% since 2016
to nearly 228,000, according to results of a first ever aerial census
conducted last year. However, there are concerns over the animals'
The elephants are mostly found in a large conservation area, the Kavango
Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area, or KAZA.
KAZA covers 520,000 square kilometers across Angola, Botswana, Namibia,
Zambia and Zimbabwe and contains the world's largest elephant population.
Presenting the census results Thursday, survey coordinator Darren Potgieter
said the outcome shows a stable population.
"Overall, across KAZA, the elephant population appears to be stable," he
said. "However, there is some variation within the different regions. Some
areas have shown possible increases in elephant numbers, most remained
stable while for some areas, potentially decrease in elephant numbers."
However, he raised concern about the number of dead elephants encountered
during the counting exercise. More than 26,000 carcasses were reported.
"That's a high number, higher than what one would like to see, and it may
be indicative of high mortality," he said. "It is important to raise this
as a red flag for the health of the population. It is important to conduct
further investigation to understand the underlying reasons for this high
level of mortality."
Potgieter said the reason for high mortality could be poaching, lack of
habitat, an aging elephant population or diseases.
In 2019, Botswana recorded more than 300 deaths due to elephants drinking
water contaminated with bacteria.
Malven Karidozo, representing the African Specialist Group, said the survey
confirms their early predictions on the elephant numbers in southern Africa.
"The results confirm the African Elephant Specialist Group preliminary
population trends report of stable to increasing," Karidozo said. "They
further confirm the 2021 red list assessment of African elephants that
reported a stable or growing KAZA elephant population and the largest
single population of the savannah species on the continent."
The census shows Botswana has the largest elephant population, accounting
for 58% of elephants in the KAZA region.
Botswana's Minister of Environment and Tourism Philda Kereng said the
survey will help in decision making, particularly as the country faces
growing human-elephant conflict.
"What this report will do (is it) will help us enhance and intensify the
protection of both people and wildlife, balanced together," Kereng said.
"We are also talking about habitat, which I think is also important. We
will know how better to drive more beneficiation from this resource to our
The survey was conducted during the dry season between August and October
of last year, using seven fixed-wing aircraft.
While southern Africa has seen an increase in the elephant population,
elsewhere on the continent, the numbers are declining due to loss of
habitat and poaching.