Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem now contains the largest population of elephants in Tanzania, a new wildlife census supported by UNDP reveals

24 Jan 2014

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Group photograph of the delegates that attended elephant census  results launch on 10 Jan, 2014

Results from an extensive wildlife census in two ecosystems in Tanzania indicate a dramatic decline of elephant populations in both the Ruaha-Rungwa and the Selous Ecosystems, highlighting an increased need for protection efforts: 13,084 elephants remain in the Selous whilst 20,090 remain in the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem.

(Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 10 January 2014) Tanzania’s Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem has emerged as Tanzania’s largest remaining stronghold for its African Elephant populations following two back-to back aerial counts held from October to November 2013.

The aerial census, financed by TAWIRI and TANAPA through the support of USD 76,000 from UNDP-GEF, indicates the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem now has 20,090 elephants. The Selous Game Reserve, which was also surveyed in the same period, has suffered such heavy ivory poaching that only an estimated 13,084 elephants remain.

The elephant-poaching epidemic continues to escalate across Africa, threatening the future of these magnificent animals. In a decisive move to establish an accurate assessment of the situation, the Tanzanian Government commissioned two collaborative aerial surveys to monitor the current population numbers of wildlife—especially elephants—in the two largest strongholds of the African Elephant in Tanzania, namely the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem and the Selous ecosystem. The Director of Wildlife, Professor Alexander Songorwa, instructed the Tanzania Wildlife and Research Institute (TAWIRI) to coordinate both counts to the highest international standards, including international observers. The Ruaha-Rungwa census was supported financially by UNDP, using GEF funds and in partnership with Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) through the SPANEST project (Strengthening the Protected Area Network of Southern Tanzania). The Selous census was supported by the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) with assistance from the German government, through BMZ and GIZ. The Ruaha-Rungwa count took place between 26th October-and 6th November 2013 after extensive planning and following on from the Selous ecosystem census.

Wildlife surveys have been carried out in the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem since the 1970s, and are considered a critical monitoring tool for management efforts on the ground. The information gathered from each survey provides crucial insight into the ecosystem’s health, ultimately helping to drive management strategies. The Ruaha-Rungwa census thus fits into the strategic purpose of TANAPA and the Wildlife Division in terms of ecological monitoring and specifically in terms of the goals of the SPANEST project, which is developing ecosystem monitoring and management capacity in the Greater Ruaha Landscape. For more details on UNDP’s work through SPANEST, see https://www.facebook.com/southerncircuitproject.