Viva Elephantes: Historic First Ever Survey of Elephants in Angola

On a sunny afternoon late July, shouts of “Viva elephantes!” rang out in Portuguese from the 200 villagers cheered as The Great Elephant Census, Elephants Without Borders and the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Angola announced the first-ever aerial survey of Angola’s known elephant ranges. Angola has committed to conserving the country’s wild habitats in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area and the Cuando-Cubango province, and the information from our Census will let them know how and where to commit conservation resources.

  Left to Right: Paula Muhoto, Permanent Secretary: Ministry of Environment, Dr. Paul Funston, Panthera.org, Dr. Mike Chase, Elephants Without Borders, His Excellency Governor Higino Carneiro, Cuando-Cubango Province, Honorable Dr. Fatima Jardim, Minister of Environment, John Hilton, Okavango Wilderness Project Expedition Director. 

 

Left to Right: Paula Muhoto, Permanent Secretary: Ministry of Environment, Dr. Paul Funston, Panthera.org, Dr. Mike Chase, Elephants Without Borders, His Excellency Governor Higino Carneiro, Cuando-Cubango Province, Honorable Dr. Fatima Jardim, Minister of Environment, John Hilton, Okavango Wilderness Project Expedition Director. 

The Census will allow the Angolan government nationally and locally to form strategic plans for establishing eco-tourism ventures which will benefit local communities and help mitigate potential lures toward poaching and other human-elephant conflict. 

Angola is an important and mysterious elephant range that scientists know very little about. We know that elephants have historically made a home in Southeast Angola, but we don’t know their current population status or their distribution. This survey opportunity will allow Dr. Mike Chase and the survey team for Great Elephant Census to fly over the area and gather up-to-date information on the population status, as well as an elephant mortality and carcass estimate for Angola’s elusive elephants. The census data is intended to be distributed to wildlife authorities, international bodies and the general public to inform conservation strategies, and will be an important contribution to the holistic pan-African census report, which is the ultimate goal of the Great Elephant Census.

The Great Elephant Census will also offer an assessment on general wildlife numbers, distributions and trends in the area, and provide an aerial review of Angola’s vital water sources; the Southeastern Angola rivers that provide 70% of the water to the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and critical ecosystem in nearby Botswana. This overview will help inform conservation assessments on the status of rivers in Angola, and will help identify and respond to potential drought dangers which could impact other parts of Africa.

Currently, the Great Elephant Census has completed country-level surveys in 15 African nations, and Angola is one of the handful of remaining countries left to survey. Once all the surveys are completed, preliminary data reports are provided to governments for their use, and then the country-level data goes into an independent data validation process before it is included in the pan-African Great Elephant Census report, the first continent-wide tally of elephants in over 40 years. Adding Angola's potential herds to the count will shed new light on this region's mysterious elephant population and introduce new, vital data to its conservation efforts.