The elephant population in the world’s largest animal sanctuary, a cross-border wildlife park in Southern Africa, is stable at around 227 900, a regional conservation body has said, after conducting an extensive head count of the animals.
The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), a wildlife conservation grouping encompassing several countries in the region, said the elephant populations in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe appeared stable in the face of multiple challenges, including shrinking habitats.
The conservation group encompasses Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which have transformed and combined their common border areas into a single large wildlife sanctuary, where cross-border tourism-related movement is freely allowed.
A head count of elephant populations in the four countries, and Zambia, was recently completed, and the results presented at a conference in Livingstone, Zambia.
According to the survey, the country-by-country elephant numbers in the KAZA TFCA were estimated at 5,983 for Angola, 131,909 for Botswana, 21,090 for Namibia, Zambia 3,840 and Zimbabwe 65,028.
This is the biggest concentration of elephants in the world, and the figure becomes even larger if populations of the animals in South Africa and Mozambique are added.
Speaking at the launch of the survey, Zambian Minister of Tourism, Rodney Sikumba, said the exercise had been done meticulously, and in accordance with scientific standards.
“Flying over this expansive terrain, meticulously adhering to rigorous scientific standards, while surveying Africa’s largest contiguous elephant population, is a collective dedication and perseverance of all involved,” he said.
Sikumba is KAZA ministerial chair.
Botswana’s Philda Kereng, welcomed the survey as it would help foster “human-wildlife co-existence, facilitate integrated land-use planning including science-based re-evaluation of fencing policy, nurture sustainable tourism development, promote connectivity in the landscape, and align with the various objectives of the KAZA elephant conservation and management framework.”
Heather Sibungo of Namibia, also welcomed the survey findings: “This survey comes not long after Namibia successfully held the first national Human Wildlife Conflict conference, where it emerged that there was an urgent need for strong scientific data to guide policy and decision-making including management of human-wildlife conflict.”
“We undertook this unprecedented aerial survey to provide an accurate estimate of the number of live elephants, elephant carcasses, and other large herbivores in this region that is home to more than half of the savanna elephant herds in Africa,’’ said Dr Nyambe Nyambe, executive
director of the KAZA Secretariat, adding, “The rich dataset now gives us the opportunity to understand the health of our ecosystems and implement best practices for wildlife management and human-wildlife coexistence.”
The survey also comes in the wake of Zimbabwe putting efforts in strengthening its biodiversity economy implementation framework.
Last week, the Ministry of Environment, with support from the African Wildlife Foundation, launched the first-ever Zimbabwe Biodiversity Economy report in Harare.
The report provides a framework that would help Zimbabwe to mainstream the value and contribution of nature into development planning, policy development and decision-making on public and private sector investment. The wildlife sector in Zimbabwe contributes significantly to
the economy through nature-based tourism, sport hunting and agriculture and generates US$33 million annually.