Arusha — NATURAL Resources and Tourism Ministry envisages embarking on an extensive search on elephants reported to have mysteriously disappeared in Southern Tanzania.
The sudden vanishing of over 12,000 elephants from the game circuit without traces of them having died naturally or poached has baffled the government, wildlife experts and conservationists.
“We expect to launch an extensive operation in search of the lost elephants as soon as the rainy season abates… in any case this is troubling news and we will do our best to get to the bottom of the matter,” charged the Natural Resources Minister Lazaro Nyalandu.
He described the disappearance of over 10,000 jumbos without trace as the greatest wildlife mystery to ever been recorded in the country.
The 12,000 elephants were reported missing in the course of last year from the Ruaha-Rungwa eco-system, where the number sharply decreased from 20,000 counted in 2013 to the current 8,000 tallied from the latest wildlife census results of 2015.
Wildlife experts who conducted the counting survey did not find any carcass to indicate if the animals succumbed to natural deaths or were killed.
According to the Director of Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), Dr Simon Mduma, the animals simply disappeared without trace.
“Were the jumbos killed, stolen out of the country or simply wandered out of observed area? Usually when such large number of giant mammals goes missing, comparable number of carcasses is observed but in this case there is none,” charged the minister.
The revelation came to light in Arusha yesterday during the tabling of the latest countrywide elephant census results which also indicated that Tanzania has lost over 60 per cent of its jumbo population in the past five years.
The latest census, whose results have just been tabled in Arusha, reveals that there are 43,521 jumbos in Tanzania and the precinct seems to have lost nearly 70,000 such large mammals in the last five years. At the moment, 10,000 elephants are also said to have disappeared without trace within the last 12 months.
The Natural resources and Tourism Minister, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu, read the latest wildlife census report in Arusha yesterday. The previous 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 latest 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 900,000 US dollars to undertake, the ‘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’s populations across the African Continent. TAWIRI conducted the exercise in conjunction with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS).
The Malagarasi-Muyovozi eco-system recorded the highest jumbo disappearance at 81 per cent, followed by Ruaha-Rungwa at 76 per cent and Selous Mikumi with 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 elephant population at 6,087, Tarangire-Manyara — 4,400, Arusha National Park — 200 elephants, Mount Kilimanjaro — 100, Ruaha-Rungwa — 8,000, Malagarasi-Muyovosi — 2,950, Rubondo Island — 102 and Katavi-Rukwa 6,396.