The latest Census, results of which have just been tabled in Arusha, reveals that there are 43,521 elephants in the entire country with Tanzania reported to have lost nearly 70,000 jumbos in the last five years.
The estimates for 2009 documented that Tanzania had around 110,000 jumbos, placing the country in the second position after Botswana, which by then had close to 150,000 elephants.
However, the number of elephants in Tanzania, according to the latest census report, has drastically dropped from over 100,000 estimated five years ago, down to the current 45,000 average, indicating a loss of more than 60 percent in the country’s elephant population.
Costing US $ 900,000 to undertake, the ‘Great Elephant Census’ covered all of Tanzania’s key elephant eco-systems as part of the initiative funded by Paul G. Allen to assess the current state of elephant populations across the African Continent.
The Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) conducted the exercise in conjunction with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS).
The Malagarasi-Muyovozi eco-system recorded the highest Jumbo disappearance at 81 percent, followed by Ruaha-Rungwa at 76 percent and Selous Mikumi with 66 percent loss. In the 70s the Selous eco-system was home to 100,000 elephants but now the number is down to 15,217 jumbos.
The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem recorded significant increase in Jumbos’ population with 6,087 elephants, Tarangire-Manyara has 4,400 Jumbos, Arusha National Park has 200 elephants, Mount-Kilimanjaro has 100, Ruaha-Rungwa has 8000, Malagarasi-Muyovosi with 2950 jumbos, Rubondo Island 102 elephants and Katavi-Rukwa 6396 jumbos.
The Government, Wildlife Experts and Conservationist have on the other hand, been baffled by the sudden disappearance of more than 12,000 large elephants from Southern Tanzania even though they were neither poached nor died.
The 12,000 elephants were reported missing in the course of last year from the Ruaha-Rungwa eco-system, where the number sharply decreased from 20,000 jumbos counted in 2013 down to the current 8000 tallied from the latest wildlife census results of 2015.
Apparently wildlife experts who conducted the counting survey did not find any carcass to indicate if the animals succumbed to natural deaths or were killed. according to the Director of Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) Dr Simon Mduma, the animals simply disappeared without trace.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu admitted that, the disappearance of more than 10,000 jumbos without them being killed is the greatest wildlife mystery to ever been recorded in the country.
“As soon as the rainy season abates, we shall launch an extensive operation in search of the lost elephants; In any case this is troubling news, we are going to do our best to get to the bottom of this,” stated Mr Nyalandu.
“Were the jumbos killed, stolen out of the country or simply wondered out of observed area? Usually when such large number of giant mammals go missing, comparable number of carcasses are observed but in this case there are none,” wondered the Minister.
The shocking revelation also came to light this week during the tabling of the latest countrywide elephant census results which also indicated that Tanzania has lost more than 60 percent of its Jumbos’ population in the past five years.