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Wildlife agency to conduct elephant census in Tsavo

The Kenya Wildlife Service will launch an elephant aerial census at Tsavo-Mkomanzi conservation area on Thursday.

Speaking at Sarova Taita Hills Hotel on Monday, KWS senior assistant director Dr Erastus Kanga said the exercise will involve various stakeholders including the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, USAID, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Tsavo Trust, Save the Elephant Trust among others.

The two week exercise will cost sh20 million, according to Mr Kanga.

“The census will also cover unprotected areas. We will also count buffaloes and giraffes,” he said.

The census conducted every two years will also be used to count livestock which have invaded Tsavo National Park.

Dr Kanga said a number of pilots have volunteered to join the exercise.

“We have 10 aircrafts which will be used during the exercise. There are also 100 other participants responsible for counting,” he said.

In 2014, the survey revealed that the number of elephants had increased to 11 200 which was an increase of 10 per cent of the previous 2011 census.

“This year’s numbers will be determined by climate change especially the prolonged drought which has been witnessed in the region and the livestock invasions in the neighboring ranches which spill to Tsavo National Park,” he said.

“Livestock and wildlife cannot coexist together,” he added.

He said that human activities like charcoal burning and the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway will be monitored to attribute any decline or increase of wildlife in the affected areas.

The Tsavo-Mkomanzi census will cover Tsavo West, Tsavo East, Chyullu Hills, Mkomanzi in Tanzania, Kitui and Taita Taveta ranches.

African wildlife Foundation Tsavo landscape ecologist, Keneth Kemutei said the population size and threat on wildlife will be detected during the survey.

“We will know the hotspot areas to enable us put measures to curb poaching,” he said.

Mr Kemutei said AWF has been focusing on anti-poaching measures and has also concentrated on reducing loss of elephants due to human-wildlife conflict.

“We will use the data to know the status we have at the moment and also it will give us the distribution of elephants in the landscape which we can easily relate with human-wildlife hotspot areas,” he said.

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