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Kenya Elephant Census Shows Slow Growth

February 14, 2011

The elephant population in Kenya’s expansive Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, in the south of the country, rose to 12,572 from 11,696 three years ago according to the preliminary results of a census released Saturday.

AFP reports that despite increased poaching and a recent severe drought, Kenya is pleased to announce the rise in elephant population in its flagship park, wildlife authorities announced.

Tsavo National Park is Kenya’s premier elephant sanctuary, hosting one third of its entire elephant population and covers 46,437 square kilometers of territory, an area bigger than Denmark and more than twice the size of Israel. Tsavo is also the pulse of the status of Kenya’s endangered elephants.

With more than 100 participants from four countries aimed at establishing the populations, trends and distribution of elephants, the census will assist policy makers and the wildlife authorities make sound conservation policy and management decisions for the ecosystem.

The count represents an increase of around two percent, lower, however, than the four percent rise that has been recorded in previous counts. “This has happened in the backdrop of a very bad drought,” said Julius Kipng’etich, the director of the Kenya Wildlife Service. “The new numbers might also reflect the increased demand for ivory and the subsequent rise in poaching,” he tells AFP.

Commenting on the exercise of the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS), James Isiche, East Africa regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said, “It is our responsibility to continuously establish and monitor elephant populations, trends and distribution to enhance their protection. We must all join efforts to ensure that elephants are not wiped out from the face of the earth.”

“While this census is integral to the conservation and management of elephants, the real challenge remains protecting them from threats such as poaching and challenges brought forth by land-use changes,” added Isiche.

IFAW has been undertaking a partnership project in Tsavo with the KWS since 2005, to enhance management operations in law enforcement and anti-poaching efforts, park infrastructural support, human-wildlife conflict mitigation and resolution, community conservation initiatives, research and education.

Conservationist Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of Save the Elephants organization tells AFP the latest figures were “hugely significant not only for Kenya but for Africa.”

In recent months, Kenyan authorities have arrested several people trafficking ivory through its main airport in Nairobi, mainly to Asian countries where the tusks are used in traditional medicines and ornaments.

Isiche concluded by telling AFP, “Whilst this census is integral to the conservation and management of elephants, the real challenge remains in protecting them from threats such as poaching and challenges brought forth by land use changes.”

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