* Elephants population appeared stable in KAZA TFCA * Chobe, Savuti recorded highest number of fresh carcasses

The scientific survey report released by the Kavango Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) indicating that Botswana has the largest volume of elephants strengthens the country’s case in opposing the UK’s Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill.

The KAZA TFCA report is funded by several international organizations including World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation Development through KfW was released on August 31st, two months after Botswana’s Environment Minister, Philda Kereng appealed to the 22 Lords in the British House of Lords in June to be sympathetic to Botswana and not allow the Bill to pass.

Kereng told them that rather than approving the Bill which spells devastating consequences for the country’s 150 000 elephants, communities, as well as tourism, the United Kingdom Government and the global community should assist in developing an ivory trade tracer system modelled on the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme on diamonds.

She pleaded with the Lords not to accept the current Bill as is, as that would devastate African wildlife, and the livelihoods of local communities that co-exist with the wildlife while concurrently managing some of the most fragile ecosystems in this world. Kereng further said those who support the Bill do not have scientific evidence to do so.

In its 2022 Elephant Survey report, KAZA TFCA states that the estimated total number of elephant population across the KAZA region is 227 900, and out of that Botswana has the highest volume with a total of 131 909 elephants in the area.

The breakdown of the report indicates that Zimbabwe follows after Botswana with 65 028 elephants, then followed by Namibia with 21 090, while Angola takes fourth position with 5 183 and Zambia with 3 840.

The report states that the distribution and density of elephants was recorded as high at permanent sources, Okavango and Chobe-Linyanti-Kwando River systems as well as part of North Matebeleland in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

Several speakers took to the podium during the 2022 KAZA Elephant Survey report launch in Livingstone, Zambia and was also streamed live on social media. Amongst notable dignitaries present were the KAZA ministers responsible for tourism hosted by their counterpart, Rodney Sikumba.

Sikumba stated that the survey would be used as a baseline assessment for future research. The survey utilised effective aerial wildlife surveying techniques from aircraft and high-quality equipment to capture data.

Sikumba said previously, KAZA had consolidated results from 2012, 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020 findings, which were conducted through separate component approach. But, this time the five KAZA states conducted a unified effort survey.

Sikumba confirmed that the elephants were very migratory as they roamed across the KAZA countries, hence they called custodians to conserve and protect this species to sustain them for future generations.

Sikumba further confirmed that KAZA states were in discussions to device strategies on how best to address human- wildlife conflict. He said that although this is a natural resource, it is common knowledge that elephants also pose

danger to the lives of people.

The Zambian minister applauded Botswana and Namibia because they already made strides in that regard. He also expressed gratitude to the two countries for playing a significant role in the project by facilitating operations and availing resources.

For her part, Kereng said the 2022 KAZA elephant survey captures accurate data that is valuable towards the advancement of sustainable conservation. She said that the Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) organisations would utilise the report to drive local beneficiation for communities.

The 2022 KAZA Elephant Survey coordinator, Darren Potgieter explained that the survey commenced on August 22, 2022, covering 60 per cent of the total 519 912 square kilometres of the KAZA TFCA region. He said the elephant population appears stable in the KAZA TFCA, which he noted called for cross-border collaboration between member states to ensure elephants were protected. On a different note, the report states that an in-depth investigation and analysis into the causes of high mortality rate of elephants in the KAZA TFCA region is ongoing. This came after the discovery made during the 2022 Elephant Survey. The Survey report shows that the high concentration of fresh and recent carcasses was in the border region between Botswana and Namibia along the Kwando Linyanti-Chobe River system. It shows a total of 26 641 elephant carcasses in the KAZA TFCA region between August 2022 and October 2022 when the survey was conducted.

The report further indicates that the recent mortality index referred to carcasses that had died 12 months prior to the survey, of which the fresh and recent carcass ratio was 1 165 in the KAZA region. The report states that Chobe and Savuti recorded the highest number of fresh carcasses with an estimation of 249 and 266 respectively.

The survey states that of the total 26 641 fresh and old carcasses, Sebungwe-Zimbabwe constitutes 17.46 per cent, Angola 16.27 per cent whereas Botswana stands at 12.80 per cent while other zones have a carcass ratio below eight per cent.