Elephants’ census in Tsavo to cost shs. 20 million (Kenya)


Kenya News Agency

Date Published

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) will spend Shs.20 million to conduct 2017 aerial elephant survey in Tsavo Conservation Area.

The exercise, which kicks off on Thursday this week, brings together over 120 specialists from different conservation agencies and donor organizations.

Speaking  to KNA on Tuesday during a training for pilots and data specialists, KWS spokesperson,  Paul  Gatithu said the census would include taking tally of big games including jumbos, buffaloes and giraffes.

He said ten planes would be used for the exercise that would extend to Mkomanzi National Reserve in Tanzania and which is part of Tsavo Ecosystem.

The census would also encompass areas like Kitui, Chyullu Hills, Tsavo ranches and the neighbouring lands where elephants and other big games often strayed to.

“We are currently training the officers on what is required during the exercise. It will be an intensive exercise that must be well coordinated,” he said.

The Organizations involved in the census, include USAID, Tsavo Trust, International Fund for Animal Welfare, African Wildlife Foundation and World Wildlife Fund.

During the census, the entire Tsavo conservation area would be divided into 91 blocs each measuring 600 Km2.

Each plane with a pilot, data collector and observers will sweep one bloc documenting all the big game in an automated Dictaphone that will transmit the sighting and voice recordings into a central database.

The planes will use straight lines while sweeping the blocs and will be separated from each other by a one-kilometer gap.

The data specialists would also key in GPS coordinates on areas that would require extra attention by ground teams.

Elephant census in Tsavo is a three-year exercise aimed at identifying elephants’ population, migration trends and usage of environment.

The last exercise was conducted in 2014 and recorded elephant population of 12,570.

However, the issue of massive influx of livestock in the national park poses a challenge to the exercise. In the past several months, large herds of elephants have been displaced from the park by livestock. This implies that the exercise will have to focus more on areas outside the park to record all big game outside the protected areas.

Mr. Gatithu admitted that illegal herders were a menace to the game but stated that the current drive to flush out livestock was not related to the census.

“We have been driving away the livestock since last year. The operation will continue but it is not related with the jumbo count,” he said.

The KWS Director General, Kitili Mbathi is expected to officially launch the exercise on Wednesday.