Public Release:  Botswana population survey shows surprising drop in species numbers

Elephant population appears stable

Zoological Society of San Diego

A recently completed aerial survey of northern Botswana by Elephants Without Borders (EWB), through the support of Botswana's Dept. of Wildlife & National Parks, indicates that wildebeest, giraffes, kudu, lechwe, ostriches, roan and tsessebe antelope and warthog species are significantly challenged. Populations of these species appear to have dropped significantly over the past 15 years, specifically in Ngamiland, which encompasses the Okavango delta.

"Particularly troubling is the almost 90% drop in the numbers of wildebeest sighted by the survey," said Michael Chase, Ph.D., the San Diego Zoo's Henderson Endowed Conservation Research Postdoctoral Fellow and founder of EWB. "Land use, habitat fragmentation, vegetation changes, drought effects, veterinary fences, fires and poaching are all contributing factors to the decline of wildlife throughout Africa."

The aerial survey took nearly 250 hours of flying time to cover a total of, I'd use 28,370 square miles which included the national parks of Chobe, Makgadikgadi, Nxai Pan, Moremi Game Reserve, the Okavango Delta and the surrounding Wildlife Management Areas in the Ngamiland, Chobe and Central districts. Survey results were analyzed comparatively to 9 similar surveys, conducted between 1993 and 2004. Numbers of individuals counted and species sighted were noted.

"Although we are concerned about the challenges faced by some species, we are encouraged that wildlife numbers in Chobe National Park appear fairly stable," said Kelly Landen, EWB's program manager. "The elephant population in northern Botswana also appears not to have changed significantly, holding at about 130,000 individuals."

EWB conservationists noted a particular concern for the status of wildlife in the Okavango Delta, pointing at recent droughts and human encroachment as serious concerns for the species that depend on this area.

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Elephants Without Borders (EWB) is a charitable organization dedicated to conserving wildlife and natural resources; through innovative research, education, and information sharing with all people, we strive to encourage mankind to live in harmony with wildlife and the natural world. In our work we see the African elephants as an ambassador for the conservation of key wildlife habitats, providing motivation for raising awareness, stimulating action, encouraging funding for conservation efforts, and generating opportunities to reconsider the boundaries between conservation and rural development. Through our work we hope to open borders for Africa's wildlife through research and education, and help ensure a prosperous and compatible future between people and wildlife.

The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is dedicated to generating, sharing and applying scientific knowledge vital to the conservation of animals, plants and habitats worldwide. The work of the Institute includes onsite research efforts at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (historically referred to as Wild Animal Park), laboratory work at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Conservation Research, and international field programs involving more than 235 researchers working in 35 countries. In addition to the Beckman Center for Conservation Research, the Institute also operates the Anne and Kenneth Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Frozen ZooTM and Native Seed Gene Bank, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaiian Bird Conservation Centers, Cocha Cashu Biological Research Station, and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which includes a 900-acre biodiversity reserve, and the San Diego Zoo. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

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