Tanzania: Elephant Census in Selous Game Reserve
November 2013, Volume 11-5&6

In October Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) has conducted an elephant survey of the Selous Ecosystem with the help of local and international experts. The agencies involved included: Wildlife Division (WD), Tanzania Wildlife & Research Institute (TAWIRI), Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA), GIZ (German Development Cooperation), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), Save the Elephants and the African Elephant Specialist Group of IUCN. This broad participation was meant to facilitate finance and logistics and to safeguard the strict application of objective scientific methods.

The census was generally regarded as a critical step towards improving Tanzania’s resource protection and anti-poaching efforts countrywide and to gain a better understanding of the current threats to the country’s elephant populations. Official results are so far not yet available, however some politicians have leaked out a figure of 15000 elephants in the ecosystem. If this is correct, this would mean a reduction of elephants by more than three quarters in recent years. Whatever the data are correct (it is hoped that the official data will be published in the very near future), it will reveal a dramatic loss of elephants. The main poaching seems to have taken place during the last few years and not so much in recent times.

For the time being Benson Kibonde, a long-time former Selous Project Manager, has been reemployed. Mr. Kibonde has an excellent reputation, as it was he who oversaw the rehabilitation of the Reserve and maintained good management between 1994 and 2008. The Tanzanian Government has meanwhile also reintroduced the Selous retention scheme, which has improved the financial situation.

Regrettably the planned aerial survey of the neighbouring Niassa National Reserve and the Quirimbas National Park in Mozambique was cancelled as a result of delays in securing the necessary avgas. According to reliable sources elephant poaching in these protected areas is “out of control”. The lower jaws recovered from the approximately 90 elephant poached in the Park this year are shown in the photo opposite. Elephants of all ages were shot, including young that carried no ivory.

Author: Rolf Baldus