This report documents a national aerial survey of elephants in Zambia, conducted in Sep. 2015. A total of 84 859 km² was sampled at an average intensity of 7.99%; of that, 44 133 km² comprised national parks. Seven parks were surveyed: Kafue (22 230 km²), North and South Luangwa (4 676 km² and 8 646 km² respectively), Sioma Ngwezi (4 482 km²), Lower Zambezi Valley (1 145 km²), Luambe (344 km²) and Lukusuzi (2 610 km²). The survey was conducted using a Cessna 182 and 206.
A total elephant population of 13 863 was estimated in the seven national parks. Populations within each park were estimated as follows: Kafue 4 813, N. Luangwa 4 673, S. Luangwa 3 302, Sioma Ngwezi 48, Lower Zambezi Valley 973, Luambe 54 and no elephants in Lukusuzi. The report notes that the country total of 21 760 (which includes areas outside the national parks) is similar to the estimate for 2009. The only evidence for change was seen in Sioma Ngwezi National Park, where there has been a steep population decline since 2004.
The report states that the number of carcasses estimated in Kafue (having a carcass ratio of 7.02%) is greater than would be expected from natural mortality alone, suggesting ongoing illegal hunting. Poaching camps, some in use, were detected in the park. Sioma Ngwezi NP was found to have a carcass ratio of 85.5%, providing strong supporting evidence of a poaching-driven decline. In contrast, the carcass ratios in the Luangwa system (1.2%) and the Lower Zambezi Valley (6.3%) suggest sustainable elephant populations.
While the report notes that there were some minor deviations from best practice (carcasses were missed; some elephant observations were not classified; 1 transect was missed; speeds were too high; heights were too variable; some marker rods were insufficiently rigid; no permanent voice recordings were made; no usable photographs (of elephants) were taken), it argued that none of these deviations materially affected the conclusions of the survey.
Source:DNPW. (2016). Report On The 2015 Aerial Survey Of Elephants In Zambia (p. 57). P/B 1, Chilanga, Zambia: Department of National Parks and Wildlife.