KAZA Elephant Survey, is launched amid Elephant mortality concerns

-The carcass ratio suggests a high level of mortality, which warrants further investigation as a potential warning sign for the health and stability, an official said.

John Cassim

HARARE, Zimbabwe (CZ) – The KAZA Elephant Survey report has been launched showing a stable 228,000 elephant population but party states are concerned that the carcass ratio (mortality ratio) of 10.47% is too high.

The 222-page survey report, was launched in Livingstone Zambia on August 31 where Zambian Tourism Minister Rodney Sikumba, raised concern, “The carcass ratio suggests a high level of mortality which warrants further investigation as a potential warning sign for the health and stability of the elephant population in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA).”

The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) is among the largest terrestrial conservation areas in the world, occupying approximately 520,000 km2 within the borders of the five Partner States of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia,
and Zimbabwe.

According to the survey report, the elephant population in the KAZA TFCA constitutes more than 50% of the remaining African savanna elephants (Loxodonta Africana) found on the continent.

This, is the largest contiguous transboundary elephant population globally, with prior estimates between 184,000 and 243,000 elephants.

Comparing the results of this survey with those of recent former surveys, the overall elephant population in the KAZA TFCA appears to be stable, with some areas showing population increases, others remaining stable, and some possibly experiencing a decrease.

In Angola 5, 983 elephants were found in 2022 compared to 3,395 in 2016, in Botswana 131,909 were counted compared to 129,939, Namibia had 21,090 compared to 19,549, Zambia had 3,840 compared to 6,688 and Zimbabwe had 65,028 compared to the 57,398 figure estimated previously.

-Primary and Secondary objectives

In April 2019, Partner States directed the KAZA Secretariat to mobilise resources to conduct the first-ever, synchronized KAZA Elephant Survey.

This directive was subsequently reaffirmed and amplified by the KAZA Heads of State during the Kasane Elephant Summit of May 7, 2019, centered on the theme “Towards a common vision for the management of our elephants.”

Following several years of preparation, the KAZA Elephant Survey (2022) commenced on August 22, 2022 and ran until October 28, 2022.
The primary objective of the survey was to obtain a relatively precise and accurate estimate of the number of African savanna elephants in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) by synchronising data collection, particularly in areas of transboundary elephant movement.

Secondary objectives included estimating populations of elephant carcasses and other large herbivores (both wild and domestic) as well as recording their spatial distribution.

The survey cost nearly US$ 3. 2 million courtesy of donors and partners such as the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Federal Republic of Germany’s Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development through KfW, the Dutch Postcode Lottery through the Dreamfund Project, USAID, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, World Wildlife Fund-US, Panthera, and EU-funded CITES MIKE Programme.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), was chosen as the grant manager and implementation partner, by the five partner countries.


The survey area covered 60% of the KAZA TFCA which was divided into 179 strata, sampled during 195 flights using seven fixed-wing aircraft.

Systematic transect sampling was the primary method used, while stratified block sampling was employed, in two strata with rugged topography (i.e., Matusadona Hills and Kanyati Highlands, in Sebungwe, Zimbabwe).

Additionally, three reconnaissance flights were conducted, in areas considered to have the potential to support elephants.

The overall sampling intensity was 6.9%, ranging from 2.6% to 56.0% between strata, with higher intensities where higher densities of elephants were expected (based on previous survey data).

A total of 398 hours, spread over 68 days, were spent, collecting data on 2,404 transects, totaling 67,390 km in length.

The report says the survey met the percentage relative precision (PRP) target of ≤10% for the elephant population estimate and adhered well to the recommended CITES MIKE Aerial Survey Standards, with few deviations as documented.

The survey was effectively synchronised across international boundaries within a sufficiently narrow time frame, ensuring a reliable assessment of this transboundary population.

-Results of the survey include

Apart from coming with a total estimated population of 227,900 elephants in the KAZA TFCA A total estimate of 26,641 elephant carcasses were also found, resulting in an overall carcass ratio of 10.47%.

The population estimates for other surveyed wildlife species are as follows: buffalo 78,264, giraffe 12,771, hartebeest 10,905, hippopotamus 17,006, impala 100,028, roan 7,428, sable 39,966, wildebeest 22,245 and zebra 88,250.

For the same survey area, the size of livestock herd was estimated at 736,426, of which 73% were cattle 536,623 and 24% were sheep and goats 173,746, resulting in a ratio of 1.16 wild animals to 1 domestic animal in the area.

Meanwhile, according to the August 31, 2023 Communique, member states undertook to:

  1. Direct the KAZA Secretariat to coordinate efforts toward development
    of a detailed transboundary action plan for the already existing strategic
    planning framework for the conservation and management of
  2. Pledge to translate the survey’s findings into practical policy measures,
    supportive legislation and detailed action plans at varying levels;
  3. Acknowledge the heterogeneous nature of the results, and commit to
    internal reviews, aiming to tailor suitable actions and address underlying
    challenges, while capitalising on potential opportunities and
    investments arising from the survey; and
  4. Invite mutually beneficial partnerships that will assist in the use of the
    wealth of knowledge generated by the survey to advance the KAZA

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