DEMOGRAPHIC STATUS OF THE MERU ELEPHANT POPULATION

Submitted by Archiver on Mon, 15/10/2018 - 14:05
Abstract

The Meru elephant population suffered unequivocally from poaching in the 1970s and 1980s and declined up to a tenth of its size in this period. Results from aerial surveys and an individual elephant identification study conducted between 1990 - 1999 showed that the Meru elephant population did not register a significant increase in population size during the 1990s. It was under the foregoing that the Kenya Wildlife Service embarked on a translocation programme aimed at restocking the park. The Kenya Wildlife Service was concerned at the apparent insignificant growth of the population. The present study therefore aimed to investigate factors responsible for the lack of significant increase of the elephant population. Basic individual elephant identification technique was used to study the demographic status of the population. Post-release monitoring of 50 elephants translocated from Sweetwaters Game Reserve in July 2001was also conducted.
After the study begun, Meru National Park was listed as a site for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of elephants (MIKE) thus making it all the more important to examine the status of the population. A total of 406 different elephants were encountered in the one-year study (September 2001-September 2002). This included 14 translocated elephants, 11 from Sweetwaters and 3 from Lewa. The estimate however excludes 17 of the elephants translocated from Sweetwaters, which were observed from the air and another 22, which are believed to be within the park, as these were never encountered on the ground. The population exhibited a seasonal migration pattern to areas to the north and northwest of the park. Elephants may be vulnerable to potential threats during such movements due to the general insecurity in these areas. The demographic data collected in the present study show that the population remained static in the early 1990s but experienced a high rate of growth in the last few years. The increase in size of the population since the late 1990s was attributed to: 1) translocations of over 70 elephants into the park in recent years, 2) high calf recruitment since 1997 and 3) low adult mortality compared with early to mid 1990s. High calf recruitment and low adult mortality are possibly due to improved management and increased anti-poaching efforts since the late 1990s. The Meru elephant population has been growing since the late 1990s at rate of about 5%, an estimate that is consistent with results of recent aerial surveys and is the rate of growth of a stable elephant population.

Author

OgolaO. Patrick

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