The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and its partners have completed an aerial count of elephats in the Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem in Kenya and Tanzania, reporting that a total of 12,866 elephants were counted.

Some 12,843 of the elephants were in the Tsavo ecosystem and 23 in Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania, KWS said in a press release on June 21.

Overall, the elephant population in Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem increased by14.7 per cent over the past three years (2014-2017) — an annual increase of 4.9 per cent.

A total of 1,167 carcasses were recorded during the survey. The ‘very old’ elephant carcasses had the highest proportion with more than 53.4 per cent (623) of the total number of carcasses, followed by old carcasses at 44.0 per cent (514). Only three and 27 fresh and recent carcasses respectively were counted during the aerial census.

The population of buffalo counted in Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem during the February 2017 census was 8,623, representing about 46 per cent increase, compared to 5,912 buffalo recorded in the same ecosystem in 2014.

There were 4,323 giraffes in the ecosysm in 2017, compared to 2,891 counted during the 2014 census. Group sizes of up to 80 individual giraffes were recorded in 2017. This represents an increase of 49.5 per cent, which is a very good result considering the threat giraffes face from bushmeat poachers.

The census also established that there was an increase in human activities within and around the protected areas, compared to previous years. Incidents of charcoal burning are on the rise, as is the number of livestock in the ecosystem, both of which pose a threat to wildlife and their habitat.

KWS plans to carry out further investigations on elephant poaching threat levels in Galana Ranch and the northern side of the Tsavo East National Park, where a high carcass ratio was found, with a view to taking corrective measures.

The aerial survey was supported by several partners including Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), David Sheldrick’s Wiildlife Trust (DSWT), World Wildlife Fund – Kenya (WWF-K), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Marwel Wildlife (MW), African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Tsavo Trust (TT), Lewa Wilderness (LW), Farmland Aviation (FA), and Private Pilots (PP).

The Tsavo-Mkomazi aerial census is a regular cross border survey undertaken every three years within protected areas and their immediate neighborhoods in both Kenya and Tanzania. The protected areas covered during the census include Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Chyulu and Mkomazi National Parks as well as South Kitui National Reserve, while the adjoining neighborhoods include Taita, Kulalu and Galana Ranches.