The largest population of elephant on the planet is in the greater “zambezia” region which includes Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia’s newly named Zambezi region.
I would like to include the term Greater Zambezia region,as it is an old term used to describe the regions of Southern Africa that drain into the Zambezi river.
In Botswana, a countrywide aerial survey has shown that the elephant population has increased by 297 percent in the past 20 years while the number of cattle has gone up by 322 percent.
“Elephants are a keystone species. It means they create and maintain the ecosystems in which they live and make it possible for a myriad of plant and animal species to live in those environments as well. The loss of elephants gravely affects many species that depend on elephant-maintained ecosystems and causes major habitat chaos and a weakening to the structure and diversity of nature itself. To lose the elephant is to lose an environmental caretaker and an animal from which we have much to learn.”
Deputy Director at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), Dr Cyril Taolo, has said that they initiated the aerial surveys in response to a number of wildlife management challenges like severe drought in the 1980s, which resulted in high wildlife mortalities and rangeland degradation. The challenges required data on wildlife population, abundance and distribution before any informed decisions could be made.
Taolo said the survey covered 26 animal species like buffalo, duiker, eland, elephant, gemsbok, steenbok, tsessebe, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest and zebra. The study also included cattle, donkeys, horses, sheep and goats. It estimated elephant population to be at 207,545 with a highly significant upward trend in Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve. Numbers were also building up in Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans national parks. Another species with a significant population increase was the hippo, which number 3,633. However, hippos generally tend to be under counted by aerial surveys and their numbers may not yield reliable estimates.
|Fast facts about wildlife population in Botswana:|
|Elephant population in the past 20 years||Increased by 297%|
|Estimated elephant population in Botswana||207 545|
|Number of animal species covered in the survey||26|
|Hippo population in Botswana||3 633|
|Livestock estimated numbers in Botswana||Cattle 3 137 477Sheep and goats 1 652 748|
Taolo said that there were upward trends in the population of all other species except lechwe, sable, sitatunga, springbok, and tessebe. The reasons for the non-increment in the populations are not known. However, the department suspects that drought or human activities like poaching and burning the forest could be responsible. Taolo said that it was evident that concerns about the possible decline of some wildlife species may be valid, especially that all species except elephant and impala had a population decline in at least one protected area.
“An appropriate management response is therefore warranted and this will include further research to understand the reasons behind the observed downward trends, improved monitoring of wildlife resources in community areas and concessions, improved law enforcement and strengthening of the gains of community based natural resources management,” he said.
Compared to wildlife, livestock numbers were high throughout the surveyed area and some observations were made inside wildlife management areas.The cattle population in Botswana has reached an estimated 3,137,477, which is more than all wildlife numbers combined.The number of sheep and goats stand at about 1,652,748.
Date: 21 August 2013