Great Northern Kenya wildlife aerial count begins


Muthoni Waweru, Capital FM Kenya

Date Published

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NAIROBI: The Kenya Wildlife Service has kicked off this year’s aerial survey of elephants, buffaloes, grevy’s zebras and giraffe in the greater northern landscape of Kenya.

The exercise which will be carried out until the end of the month will cover the Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo, Marsabit and Meru ecosystems.

In a statement, KWS spokesman Paul Gathitu said the data collected will be compared with that from past aerial surveys to discern the species trends as well as establish their total numbers and distribution.

“Approximately 15 aircraft will systematically survey the five ecosystems. The collated information will then be compared to past aerial survey counts of wildlife to help us evaluate the success of our landscape and species conservation efforts as well as provide information on where we need to concentrate our future conservation resources. Trends in land use, livestock, and human settlements are also noted,” cited the statement.

The Great Northern Kenya Wildlife Count includes an area of more than 65,516.96 sq. kilometres and will take seven full days (at a minimum) to cover by aircraft.

This area is singularly one of Kenya’s great wildlife conservation areas. Wildlife survives here because of the goodwill of its residents, including land use that supports or tolerates wildlife.

The last survey was carried out in June in the Tsavo-Mkomazi Ecosystem that lies in both Kenya and Tanzania, reporting that a total of 12,866 elephants were counted – 12,843 in Tsavo ecosystem and 23 in Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania.

Overall, the elephant population in Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem increased by 14.7 per cent over the past three years (2014-2017) – an annual increase of 4.9 per cent.

A total of 1,167 carcasses were recorded during the survey. The ‘very old’ elephant carcasses had the highest proportion with more than 53.4 per cent of the total number of carcasses, followed by old carcasses at 44.0 per cent.

Only three and 27 fresh and recent carcasses respectively were counted during the aerial census.

There were 4,323 giraffes in the ecosystem in 2017, compared to 2,891 counted during the 2014 census. Group sizes of up to 80 individual giraffes were recorded in 2017 representing an increase of 49.5 per cent, which is a very good result considering the threat giraffes face from bush meat poachers.

The census also established that there was an increase in human activities within and around the protected areas, compared to previous years