NAIROBI, Kenya: A recent census has revealed a 72 per cent increase in the number of elephants within the Maasai Mara Conservancy and the Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystems.
According to an aerial count by the Kenya Wildlife Service, there were 2,493 elephants at the Maasai Mara ecosystem compared to 1,448 recorded in 2014.
Releasing the results at the KWS Headquarters, Director General, Kitili Mbathi attributed the increase in the population to stiff penalties on poaching, increase of rangers and equipment.
“Over the past three years we have seen a serious decline in the level of poaching of elephants and rhinos and this has come about through three major factors, that includes additional rangers who are well trained, equipped and boost of the intelligence unit.”
The survey also captured that as much there is increase in the population of the elephant, human activities within and around the protected areas are gradually on the rise.
“Incidents of charcoal burning are on the rise, as well as the number of livestock in the ecosystem, both of which pose a threat to wildlife and their habitat,” Mbathi said.
An aerial count of elephants was also carried out in the Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem that includes: Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Chyulu and Mkomazi National parks as well as South Kitui National reserve, while the adjoining neighbourhoods include Taita, Kulalu and Galana Ranches.
During the census, a total of 12,866 elephants were counted, 12,843 in Tsavo eco system and 23 in Mkomazi national park.
Overall, the elephant population in Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem increased by 14.7pc over the last three years (2014-2017), representing an annual increase of 4.9pc over the period.
“The increase is notable, but as KWS there are plans to carry out further investigations on elephant poaching threat levels in Galana Ranch and Tsavo East national park northern side where a high carcass ratio was found with a view of taking corrective measures,” stated Mbathi.
Captured in the survey was the population of buffaloes and giraffes with both ecosystems recording an increase in their population.
KWS sought to look into the impact of the Standard Gauge Railway since being operational, and established that there is need to boost the electric fence along the railway line to avoid its destruction by elephants.
While referring to an incident where a section of the Tsavo East conservation fence was destroyed, Mbathi said the barrier as it is currently designed does not provide adequate power to prevent the elephants from crossing over.
“Along the SGR route there is an electric fence and some sections were not adequately electrified. We are working with Kenya railways to ensure that remedial measures are in place so the elephants will not be in a position to break the fence,” said the Director General.
He noted that they are observing animal behaviours in regard to the operations of the SGR line within national parks and reserves.
Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Assistant Director Shadrack Ngene said a few elephants have been collared to monitor their movements and if they are making use of the underpasses constructed to facilitate their migration.
“The collared elephants will help us understand the maximum utilization of underpasses that have been put up to facilitate their movement,” said Ngene, “But for now the elephants are using the underpasses effectively.”