Five Southern African Countries Kick-Start Elephant Census
Mqondisi Dube, VOA News
August 8, 2022
Five southern African countries, with more than half the continent's
elephants, are conducting a first-ever aerial census to determine the
elephant population and how to protect it.
Light aircraft will fly simultaneously across the plains of Angola,
Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe — in a conservation area known as
the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area (KAZA) — in an
exercise that will run until October 20.
KAZA is home to an estimated 220,000 elephants, and the five countries are
keen to know the exact figures and the animals' distribution patterns.
More than 130,000 of the animals are found in Botswana, which has the
world's largest elephant population.
Botswana's National Parks and Wildlife director, Kabelo Senyatso, said the
population count will be key in the management of the elephants.
The data primarily will be used to guide decision-making by the five
partner states, Senyatso said, including land-use planning, managing
human-elephant conflict, hunting, and tourism.
Senyatso said the exercise is critical for a region with a high number of
"It is important that as managers of the resource, we have a clear
understanding of where they are and how they are distributed across the
landscape," Senyatso said. "It is an exciting project, the first of its
kind. We expect the data on the patterns to be analyzed starting early 2023
such that by quarter one of 2023, we would already be having preliminary
data that we can share with the public and for our decision-making."
KAZA's executive director, Nyambe Nyambe, said the elephant count will
determine a scientific approach to the management of the elephant
"It is highly anticipated that it will generate science-based information
on the population distribution and other factors and is a reaffirmation of
the KAZA partner states' commitment to the joint pursuit of science-led
conservation supported by accurate and reliable data," Nyambe said. "The
results from this survey will become the cornerstone for the long-term
protection and management of Africa's largest trans-boundary elephant
Botswana-based conservationist Map Ives said revealing the elephant
migration patterns across the five countries' borders is key.
"We hope to see what the results come up with," Ives said. "What we will be
interested in seeing is not only how many elephants there are but the
distribution, therefore, and what the likelihood of those elephants moving
between countries is. We know that this population is one single contiguous
While elephant populations are increasing in the KAZA region, elsewhere on
the African continent the numbers are decreasing due to loss of habitat and