Ruaha elephants make comeback (Tanzania)


Marc Nkwame, Daily News

Date Published

A total of 7,564 elephants that were presumed lost in the Ruaha-Rungwa Ecosystem during the countrywide wildlife census of last yea r, have been accounted for.

Tabling the new results of the 2015 Wildlife Census at the ongoing 10th Scientific Conference organized by the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Adelhem Meru, showed that fresh counts have upped the total number of elephants in Ruaha-Rungwa eco-system to 15,836.

“In the previous (2014) wildlife census, the population of the elephants in the area stood at 8,000, a figure which raised alarm considering that the first count made in 2013, indicated that Ruaha-Rungwa had more than 20,000 elephants,” Dr Meru told the 250 scientists from all over the world attending the TAWIRI Scientific Conference here.

The government, Wildlife Experts and Conservationists were baffled by the sudden disappearance of more than 12,000 elephants from the Southern Tanzania precinct.

With such shocking discovery of the disappearance of elephants at the rate of 1,000 a month, or 34 elephants a day, the government, through the Arusha-based Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) decided to run a fresh census focused in Ruaha-Rungwa to satisfy themselves over the matter.

That was especially because wildlife experts who conducted the early counting did not find carcass es to indicate whether the animals could have succumbed to natural deaths or were killed.

“Were the jumbos killed, stolen or simply wandered out of the area? Usually when such large number of giant mammals go missing, comparable numbers of carcasses are observed but in this case there were none,” wondered research experts.

Dr Meru was of view that the 2015 aerial census provided an estimate of 15,836 which means out of the 12,000 elephants initially reported lost, 7,564 of them are now back, leaving the other 4,500 jumbos still at large.

Still, the same 2014 Census, whose results were tabled in Arusha last June, indicated that there was a total of 43,521 jumbos in Tanzania and the precinct seems to have lost nearly 70,000 mammals in the last five years.

The 2009 estimates documented that Tanzania had around 110,000 jumbos, placing the country in the second position after Botswana, which by then had close to 150,000 elephants.

However, the number of trumpeting Jumbos in Tanzania, according to the census report, has drastically dropped from over 100,000 estimated five years ago, down to the current 45,000 average, indicating a loss of more than 60 per cent in the country’s elephant’s population.

Costing US $ 900,000 to undertake, the previous ‘Great Elephant Census’ covered all of Tanzania’s key elephant eco-systems as part of the initiative funded by Paul G. Allen to assess the current state of elephant populations across the African Continent.

The Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) conducted the exercise in conjunction with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS). The Malagarasi-Muyovozi eco-system has the highest Jumbo disappearance at 81 per cent, followed by Ruaha-Rungwa at 76 per cent and Selous Mikumi with a 66 per cent loss.

In the 70s the Selous eco-system was home to 100,000 elephants but now the number is down to 15,217 jumbos.

The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem recorded significant increase in Jumbos’ population with 6,087 elephants, Tarangire-Manyara has 4,400 Jumbos, Arusha National Park has 200 elephants, Mount-Kilimanjaro has 100, Ruaha-Rungwa has 8,000, Malagarasi-Muyovosi with 2,950 jumbos, Rubondo Island 102 elephants and Katavi-Rukwa 6,396 jumbos.