from DANIEL JONES in Hwange, Zimbabwe
HWANGE – SOUTH African wildlife conservation consultant, Darren Potgieter, will lead the upcoming population census in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA).
Member states comprising Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – have engaged him for the aerial survey set to begin next month (July) at a cost of US$3 million (R45 million).
The KAZA region is home to more than 50 percent of the remaining savanna elephants found in Africa.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently listed the species as globally endangered.
KAZA’s is the largest contiguous trans-boundary elephant population in the world.
There are however challenges as the jumbos migrate between countries.
In Zimbabwe, the last meaningful elephant census was done in 2014. The population is estimated at close to 100 000, against a carrying capacity of 45 000.
Hwange National Park which is within KAZA, has an estimated 45 000 elephants, three times its carrying capacity of 15 000.
Neighbouring Botswana has between 230 000 and 260 000 elephants, the highest in the world. Zambia has about 90 000.
The growing elephant population is a result of positive outcomes of management interventions within KAZA and ivory trade restrictions imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The upcoming survey is a fundamental component of the KAZA Strategic Planning Framework for the Conservation and Management of Elephants.
Results from the survey will contribute significantly towards the decisions on the sustainable management of KAZA’s elephant population.
All KAZA states will work in close collaboration based on the recently revised CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) aerial survey standards.
Dr Fulton Mangwanya, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management director, said elephant population is ever increasing and Zimbabwe’s parks are overpopulated.
“The census will help in elephant management planning,” he said.
Dr Kabelo Senyatso, Director in the Wildlife and National Parks Department in Botswana, said there is need for collaboration to encourage science based decisions as are forcing people to change lifestyle due to overpopulation.
“We are planning the first of its kind coordinated count with other KAZA member states. We trust that by the end of the year, we will have a definite number of elephants in KAZA,” said Senyatso.
He said the aerial survey will help avoid double counts that have occurred before. Botswana will also have a concurrent census alongside the KAZA survey.
In a statement, the KAZA TFCA secretariat said Potgieter is an aviation expert with experience as a pilot.
He has over the years developed specialist skills in aerial wildlife surveys, specialising in geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing.
Born in Nelspruit near Kruger National Park, Potgieter has 15 years of professional experience in protected area management.
He has worked in Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Chad, Mozambique and the Central African Republic (CAR) and has led successful elephant conservation projects and has experience in field operations supervision and wildlife law enforcement management.
Established in 2011, the KAZA TFCA mandate is to facilitate the development of the bloc into a world-class conservation area and premier tourism destination.
– CAJ News