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SADC elephant census to gauge ecosystem balance

SADC elephant census to gauge ecosystem balance

from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls
VICTORIA FALLS, (CAJ News) A MASSIVE population count of elephants is on the cards in the Okavango and Zambezi River Basin regions amid fears this area with the largest population of the giant animals is on the verge of an ecological crisis.

The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) is
planning the survey in the five-country region where national parks reportedly carry more than their capacities.

Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe form the bloc.

Management disclosed the plans of the census – planned for the dry
season between July and October next year – as KAZA TFCA commemorated the 2021 World Elephant Day which falls on August 12 yearly.

A survey preceding the count will be initiated among the partner states during the fourth quarter of the current year.

“The KAZA Secretariat is pleased that significant progress has been made in preparing for the wide synchronised aerial survey to determine numbers and seasonal distributions,” Dr Nyambe Nyambe, the KAZA TFCA Executive Director, said.

“We appreciate the importance and magnitude of the survey and we are taking the necessary measures to ensure that there is effective coordination and management of the survey,” he added.

“The support being rendered by different stakeholders is encouraging and strengthens our confidence that the synchronized trans-boundary survey will be successful, on time, and within budget,” Nyambe assured.

The burgeoning population of elephants is a double-edged sword in the Southern African region.

The species are classified as endangered and are a tourist drawcard.

Yet, the fact that some countries are holding the elephants are carrying more than their capacities is triggering an ecological time bomb.

Zimbabwe’s elephant population has surpassed the 100 000-mark, the
second-largest number in Africa after neighbouring Botswana, which has more than 130 000 jumbos.

The north-western Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s biggest sanctuary, is close to 15 000km2 and has more than 45 000 jumbos, three times more than its carrying capacity.

Botswana has about 50 000 jumbos and the whole KAZA has close to 300 000 elephants, which is more than half the population of the remaining African Savannah elephants.

Zimbabwe’s last elephants census, conducted by Parks and Wildlife
Management Authority (ZimParks) in 2014, indicated an average 5 percent annual increase.

Tinashe Farawo, ZimParks spokesperson, recently expressed the wildlife authority’s concern at the number of animals and the resultant destruction of the habitat.

Scientifically, there should be one elephant per square kilometre,
according to ZimParks.

A majority- more than 90 percent – of elephants in Zimbabwe are in game parks around while the rest are under rural district councils through Community Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) programmes or private sanctuaries, mostly run by tourism operators.

ZimParks is lobbying for the de-populating of parks by repatriating elephants to other countries or parks that have small numbers, which is a poser because this is restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of fauna and flora.

Zimbabwe also sits on over US$600 million worth of ivory stock piles which cannot be disposed of because of the trade embargo.

Nonetheless, KAZA TFCA commemorated the 2021 World Elephant Day by
highlighting the importance of the largest land mammals on earth.

“We cannot imagine a world without the elephants given their
incalculable importance to the ecosystems, livelihoods of approximately 2,5 million people living in the KAZA region and socioeconomic development of the partner states,” Nyambe said.

– CAJ News

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