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 Counting from the Sky; A Collaborative Kenya-Tanzania Aerial Wildlife Census - 10/18/2013
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During an intensive five day aerial census, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Chief Pilot, Nick Trent, joined forces with four other aircrafts and pilots from the Kenya Wildlife Service, Tanzanian Wildlife Parks, Maluganje Elephant Sanctuary and the Tsavo Trust to survey the greater Amboseli-West Kilimanjaro and Natron-Magadi ecosystems.  

The KWS Husky plane  Rainbow towards Kilimanjaro

The purpose of this joint census, which took place during the period of October 7th to 11th 2013, was to establish the area’s wildlife population, trends and distribution in an effort to make informed management decisions in protecting the wildlife and environmental stability of each habitat, whilst analysing and recording the effects of human impact on each species and its environment.

Flamingos at Lake Magadi  The Census fleet

The DSWT’s Top Cub, which began its flight path at the census’s operational base in Amboseli National Park, flew 36 hours during this five day count covering nearly 5,000km, whilst the total census covered over 25,000km2 including 9,214 km2 of the Amboseli area, 6348 km2 of the Namanga-Magadi areas in south-western Kenya, 3,013 km2 of the West Kilimanjaro and 7,047 km2 of the Natron areas in North Tanzania.

The DSWT aerial plane at Amboseli  DSWT Pilot and KWS Research Officer

During an aerial census each aircraft is manned by a pilot and a spotter, the DSWT pilot was joined by a KWS Research Officer from Tsavo West, who throughout the 36 hours in the air counted and recorded all elephants and large mammals seen.  In order to accurately records these wildlife numbers the aircraft is fitted with a special counting device with two long metal prongs and the spotter only counts wildlife seen between these bars whilst the pilot follows a predetermined aerial route.

A large lone elephant Bull  Elephants recorded from the air during the census

This aerial survey follows a previous wet-count census conducted earlier in April 2013, as by practice it is necessary to generate counts of wildlife during both the wet and dry seasons in order to achieve a more comprehensive report of moving wildlife populations and trends.  The April 2013 wet-count census revealed an elephant population of 1,930, and the report also outlined that there was a noticeable population recovery for several species within these designated wildlife habitats, although these population increases can be significantly attributed to the recovery of certain species after the severe droughts experienced in the area between 2007 and 2009.

Flamingos  Aircraft formation over Amboseli

The Kenya Wildlife Service is yet to release the October 2013 dry-count Aerial Census Report including all the data recorded regarding wildlife populations.  When this information is released it will be analysed and compared against previous census reports covering four years of research data.  

Desertification around Lake Natron during the census  Flying over the Chyulus

The DSWT aerial surveillance Unit flew over some magnificent landscapes during this census and recorded a number of wildlife species, whilst devoting signifcant time, skills and resources into this joint initiative in an effort to help support and protect Kenya and Tanzania’s wildlife.  

In Feb 2014 The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust will be The Kenya Wildlife Service's main partner in supporting the Tsavo Conservation Area Aerial Count, donating all the aviation fuel required to carry out this very important census.

Reflection on Lake Magadi  Raining over the Chyulu Hills during the census

Refueling at Amboseli  Between Amboseli and the Chyulus flying for the census

Please support our vital aerial surveillance initiatives https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/is/donate_now.asp



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