Counting elephants is not easy. It takes experience, skill and funding. The good news: elephants are thriving in Namibia.
Counting elephants is not easy. It takes experience, skill, and funding. The good news: elephants are thriving in Namibia. Gail Thomson, veteran journalist, and conservationist delves into the incredibly complex process of elephant censuses.
Based on interviews with Kenneth /Uiseb, Debbie Gibson, and Colin Craig
The African savannah elephant was recently classified as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), citing a decline throughout Africa of 60% over the past 50 years. Yet in Namibia elephant numbers are increasing and their range is expanding; a testament to sound long-term conservation policies. But how do we know that they are increasing? How do you assess the status of an animal that ranges over thousands of square kilometers with any degree of confidence? I spoke to the experts to find out.
The small four-seater Cessna aircraft is full. The pilot is flying slowly in a dead straight line, maintaining an altitude of 300 feet above ground level. Behind him, two passengers stare intently out the windows; searching the ground between two black rods fixed to the plane’s wing struts. One passenger suddenly calls out: “left, elephant bulls, two,” followed shortly by the other: “right, elephant cows, ten in, five out.” The fourth person in the plane, sitting next to the pilot, decodes their cryptic messages and jots them down on a datasheet.