Highest Elephant Population And Mortality In Botswana

Date:

On the 31st August 2023, the KAZA Elephant Survey Report was launched. The KAZA Elephant Survey (2022) commenced on 22 August 2022 and ran until 28 October 2022. The primary objective of the survey was to obtain a relatively precise and accurate estimate of the number of African savanna elephants in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA). Secondly, the survey estimated populations of elephant carcasses and other large herbivores (both wild and domestic), as well as recording their spatial distribution.

The 2022 dry season survey estimated there to be 227900 (±16743) elephants in the KAZA TFCA survey area. Across the KAZA TFCA, 58% of the elephants were found to be in Botswana, 29% in Zimbabwe, 9% in Namibia, and the remaining 4% were found in Zambia and Angola combined. The ecologically anticipated pattern of higher density and aggregation of elephants was found to be near permanent water sources like the Okavango and Chobe-Linyanti-Kwando River systems, as well as in parts of northwestern Matabeleland, where artificial water supplies are widely available in Hwange National Park. Conversely, the density of elephants is lower in regions with less water.

In relation to the second objective the survey which estimated populations of elephant carcasses and other large herbivores, results indicate that the KAZA TFCA has an all-carcass ratio (CR14) of 10.47%, calculated from the 26641 (±1645) elephant carcasses estimated. Douglas-Hamilton and Burrill (1991) showed that such carcass ratios above 8% may be indicative of high mortality and warrant special attention.

The survey indicate that carcases ratio was high in three zones, namely: Sebungwe (17.46%), Angola (16.27%) and Botswana (12.80%). That is, these zones had the highest all-carcass ratios, while other zones in the KAZA had all-carcass ratios that were below 8%. The high carcase rate in Botswana is worrisome and need further investigation. The underlying reasons for high mortality rates could be diverse and are likely to be a combination of several factors such as of poaching, habitat loss (i.e., elephant population compression) and associated human-elephant conflict, disease, and other natural causes.

The report notes that for the conservation of elephants, a priority is to carry out further investigations to identify the drivers of the high mortality rates and to ensure that appropriate interventions are implemented.

If a total of 58% of the elephants in Southern Africa are found to be in Botswana, it may mean that Botswana’s tourism industry will continue to grow due the availability of the elephants. Conversely, the large number of elephants in Botswana may not mean good news to farmers. Elephants are known to be the leading cause of human wildlife conflict. They cause crop damage, destroy livestock infrastructure such as boreholes and sometimes cause human injuries and fatalities. In addition, it is not good news to learn that Botswana also has a very high elephant mortality rates. Botswana will need to investigate the causes of the elephants mortalities and develop mitigation strategies.

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