Friday, 29 April 2016

RUAHA-RUNGWA ECOSYSTEM ELEPHANT CENSUSRESULTS, 2015

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism wishes
to announce results of elephant census verification
exercise that was conducted in the Ruaha-Rungwa
Ecosystem during the dry season from 16 th September
to 13th November 2015. The main objective of the
survey was to verify the unprecedented low estimate
of elephant population estimated in 2014 compared to
the previous estimate of 2013. Results of the 2014
census indicated a decline from 20,090 (±3.282
Standard Error) to 8,272 (±1,652 Standard Error) over a
period of one year, while the estimated number of
carcasses did not change.

The Ministry, in collaboration with experts from within
and outside the country, conducted the verification
surveys which included aerial census, camera traps
and questionnaire surveys.
Results of the 2015 aerial census provided an estimate
of 15,836 (±4,759 Standard Error) elephants in the
Ruaha-Rungwa Ecosystem. This means the true
elephant population size is between 11,077 and 20,595
within one standard error. This estimate encompasses
both the 2013 and 2014 estimates because of its
relatively wide standard error.
The estimated number of elephant carcasses in the
Ruaha-Rungwa census zone was 2,863 (±318 SE),
which is statistically similar to the two censuses
conducted in 2013 and 2014. The carcass ratio in the
ecosystem was high (15.3%) indicating a population
that is still suffering from unnatural mortality (carcass
ratio of about 7 to 8% is considered to represent
natural mortality). However, no fresh carcasses were
recorded and only 9% were assessed to have died
between 2 and 12 months ago. The remaining 91% of
the carcasses spans over a long period from over one
year up to 10 years ago. Lack of fresh carcasses and
few recent elephant deaths are most likely due to
effective protection measures taken by management
authorities.
In conclusion.
Although there were signs of unnatural elephant
mortality after the 2013 census (estimated less than
500), large numbers died before that time. The
apparent on-going long term decline of elephants in the
ecosystem is not as severe as was concluded in 2014
census. The low estimate of elephant population size in
2014 was an artefact of three possible sources of bias.
(i) Elephant movements beyond census zone as
supported by results of the questionnaire survey. There
is evidence of several active corridors used by
elephants to move back and forth into the census zone.
However, the number of animals involved is yet to be
determined.
(ii) Possible change of behaviour ; results of camera
traps have shown that elephants were active from dusk
to mid night. This behaviour could cause animals to be
missed during census hours (06:00 a.m. -10:00 a.m.).
(iii) Clustered distribution could cause undercount if a
few large groups are missed by chance in the sampled
area. The reverse is true where a few large groups
happen to fall within transect lines.
Elephant population status in Tanzania
Elephant estimates from other protected areas are
incorporated to provide a countrywide estimate
assuming that there were no significant changes in
their respective populations since they were counted.
The ecosystems include Serengeti, Tarangire-Manyara,
Selous-Mikumi, Katavi-Rukwa, Ruaha-Rungwa,
Malagarasi-Muyovosi and Burigi-Biharamulo. Other
protected areas are Mkomazi, Saadani, Rubondo Island,
Kilimanjaro and Arusha National Parks. Elephant
population sizes were also sought from Swagaswaga
Game Reserve, and West Kilimanjaro and Natron Game
Controlled Areas.
Substituting the 2014 results with those of 2015 for
Ruaha-Rungwa the estimate of countrywide elephant
population size is 50,894 (±5,430 SE) (Table 1).
However, these results do not change the previously
described trend of a declining population when
compared to the 2009 countrywide census estimate,
which was 109,051 (± 5,899). This is a 53.3% decline
of the Tanzania elephant population over a period of
six years.
On-going efforts to enhance wildlife conservation efforts
The Wildlife Division and Tanzania National Parks have
intensified protection of wildlife resources by
implementing the “National Antipoaching Strategy.”
This includes employing more rangers, providing state-
of-the-art field gears, arms and ammunitions,
strengthening intelligence-led operations and being
more intuitive. For example, formation of Rapid
Response Units and deploying the use of sniffer dogs in
tracing wildlife crimes.
Formation of the Multi-Agency Task Team (MATT), an
inter-ministerial squad to deal with antipoaching and
environmental crimes. MATT is also linking-up with
regional and international institutions in combating
wildlife poaching.
As you may be aware, the Tanzania Wildlife Authority
(TAWA) was launched in October 2015 and is getting
itself established. TAWA, an autonomous body, will
further strengthen the protection of wildlife in
collaboration with other stakeholders including defence
and security forces.
In addition, the Wildlife Conservation Act (2009) is
being reviewed in order to allow adoption of a
paramilitary system among the employees of the
wildlife sector and with stiffer penalties as a deterrent.
To continue supporting research on elephant’s ecology
with emphasis on their movements, demography,
causes of death and quality of their habitat.
To promote education and adopt strategies that will
involve the public in wildlife conservation efforts.
Finally, the Ministry would like to recognize and thank
the Survey Team and institutions that made it possible.
These include; the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute
(TAWIRI), Wildlife Division (WD), Tanzania National
Parks (TANAPA), Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Authority (NCAA), Coastal Aviation, United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP), Wildlife Conservation
Society (WCS), World Wide Fund for Nature-Tanzania
Country Office (WWF-TCO) and Southern Tanzania
Elephant Project (STEP).
Table 1: Tanzania elephant population estimate, 2015.
(PA = Protected area, SE = Standard error, SRF =
systematic reconnaissance flight, TC = total count, EG
= educated guess, NP = national park, GCA = game
controlled area).
SN Ecosystem/Pa Estimate SE Area (Km 2) Method Census Year
1 Selous-Mikumi Ecosystem 15,217 1,800 105,730 SRF 2014
2 Ruaha-Rungwa Ecosystem 15,836 4,759 52,464 SRF 2015
3 Serengeti Ecosystem 6,087 33,185 TC 2014
4 Katavi-Rukwa Ecosystem 5,738 1,375 19,953 SRF 2014
5 Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem 4,202 18,725 TC 2014
6 Malagarasi-Muyovosi Ecosystem 2,953 1,308 44,809 SRF 2014
7 Arusha National Park 200 316 EG 2014
8 West Kilimanjaro-Lake Natron GCA 200 10,060 TC 2013
9 Burigi-Biharamulo 110 4,713 SRF 2014
10 Rubondo Island National Park 102 237 EG 2013
11 Kilimanjaro National Park 100 1,652 EG 2014
12 Swagaswaga Game Reserve 60 871 EG 2014
13 Mkomazi National Park 59 3,107 TC 2014
14 Saadani National Park 30 1,154 SRF 2014
TOTAL 50,894 5,430 296,976