Tanzania's Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) released the results of a second ever landscape wildlife survey confirming that elephant numbers have stabilized in an area that was amongst the hardest hit by ivory poachers in the last decade.

Ambassador Dr. Pindi Chana (MP), Tanzania's Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, released the findings of the Katavi-Rukwa and Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystems Aerial Wildlife Census. Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA), Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) worked together to coordinate the census.

An estimated 19,884 elephants were recorded during the 20-day aerial survey. The survey encompassed 34,445 square miles (89,213 square kilometers) of the Katavi-Rukwa and Ruaha-Rungwa landscape and included parks, game reserves, and other protected areas.

“The Government of Tanzania through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in collaboration with all partners working in the Katavi-Rukwa and Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystems have clearly resulted in an increase or stability in the number of wildlife populations, according to the census data we announced today,” Dr. Pindi Chana, Honorable Minister, remarked.

The importance of surveying the entire ‘elephant landscape’ was confirmed during previous work supported by WCS in 2018, but this survey was extended to also include two critical wildlife corridors. The results confirm that this landscape remains the most important in Eastern Africa in terms of elephant numbers and contains the largest population on the continent outside of Zimbabwe and Botswana.

The lowest number of elephant carcasses since the late-2000s was recorded with the ratio of carcasses to live elephants indicative of natural rather than human-caused mortality.

Over the last eight years, WCS has targeted reducing elephant poaching across the landscape. Working with wildlife authorities and local communities, the development of key capacities, protection infrastructure, improved mobility, communication, and monitoring have been fundamental to this effort. Many of the approaches have since been more widely adopted, including the deployment of quick reaction and boat teams, as well as SMART law enforcement monitoring. Local communities, through land-use planning and the establishment of Joint Village Land Forest Reserves, are also protecting key wildlife corridors.

“Since the last census in 2018, the elephant population of the Katavi-Rukwa and Ruaha-Rungwa landscape has not decreased further, which is good news. Poaching has been controlled, as evidenced by the stabilization of the elephant population numbers and the rarity of fresh elephant carcasses,” said Eblate Mjingo, the Director General of TAWIRI.

“We are extremely encouraged by these survey results” said Simon Lugandu, WCS Tanzania Country Director. “The results confirm the belief that stability has indeed returned to the elephant population and highlight the positive impact of our actions, clearly demonstrating that ivory poaching has been reduced to the lowest levels in almost all areas. The fact that elephants were encountered across the landscape reinforces the need for all future surveys to be conducted at this scale, while the results from wildlife corridors provide important guidance for our work with local communities there as well.”

In addition to elephants, the survey confirmed the status of 25 other key large mammal species. The most abundant species included 56,184 buffalo, 15,773 zebra, 13,427 hartebeest, 10,200 sable, 9,824 impala, 6,071 roan, 6,017 eland and 4,823 giraffes. An alarming decrease in puku was recorded – highlighting the need to strengthen the management of this species on the shores of Lake Rukwa.

The aircraft for the survey work was provided by WCS and TAWIRI (through TANAPA and TAWA), and funded by WCS, Wyss Foundation and the Government of Tanzania.