88% of Africa’s second largest elephant population lost in four decades


Save The Elephants

Date Published

The number of elephants in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Africa’s second largest elephant population, has plummeted by approximately 88 per cent over the last four decades, the Tanzania government has revealed.

Almost one in three of the elephants seen by census observers in a recent Selous count was a carcass. The team of Tanzanian and international scientists made a sample count of 84,00km2 in October 2013, and, estimated that 13,084 elephants now remain in the Selous, out of 109,419 counted originally counted in 1976 in a count coordinated by STE founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton.

When the census team surveyed another great Tanzanian National Park, Ruaha, they found that elephant populations had fallen 44 per cent from their 2006 numbers to an estimated 20,090.

With reports of heavy poaching coming in from many sources, the Tanzanian Government decided to commission a survey to obtain internationally credible estimates of the situation. The Tanzania Wildlife & Research Institute (TAWIRI), the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) and the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) conducted the count with funding from the German Development Cooperation (GIZ).

Save the Elephants joined other international experts and organizations such as Kenya’s Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), to plan and support the census with their expertise.

“It is admirable that Tanzania has mounted such a credible assessment and show the situation. The Selous is a World Heritage Site – Africa’s other elephants likely face equal challenges,” said Dr. Douglas-Hamilton.

“A credible census is a crucial first step towards resolving the poaching crisis that Tanzania’s elephants are suffering. More concerted international support is needed,” he continued.

According to TAWIRI the country is losing 30 elephants daily to poaching – a serious blow to a nation which earns 17 per cent of its GDP from wildlife tourism.

“The census results we have released… is clear evidence that poaching of elephants has reached unprecedented levels,” said Lazaro Nyalandu, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Natural Resources & Tourism, in a statement before going on to announce that Tanzania is finalizing the process of establishing a new autonomous body, the Tanzania Wildlife Authority.

Tanzania’s founding father, Julius Nyerere, originally laid down Tanzania’s pledge to protect wildlife.

“These wild creatures amid the wild places they inhabit are not only important as a source of wonder and inspiration, but are an integral part of our natural resources and our future livelihood and well being,” he wrote in the Arusha Declaration in 1961.

“In accepting trusteeship of our wildlife we solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children’s grand-children will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance.”