How Many Elephants Are Left in D.R. Congo ?

John Hart looked for the most recent elephant counts he could find including detailed forest inventories, aerial surveys and village-to-village questioning.  He assembled it on the map below. John’s remark:  “Almost everyone doing forest surveys in D.R.Congo, no matter where, has come across elephant carcasses with the tusks hacked out.”

Elephants in D.R. Congo.  Where they still are and where they might be.

Areas where elephants have not disappeared in DRCongo

The Remaining elephants: What do we know??

Map Code Protected area or region Population Estimate Current Poaching Elephant species References see #s below

CORE POPULATIONS

Definition: >500 animals per population, contiguous occurrence,
Quantitative estimate
minimum maximum
1 Bili-Gangu 2500 3500 High Forest 15
2 Garamaba & Reserves 3000 5000 Low Forest/Savanna hybrids present 6,7,17,18, 6, ,25
3 Okapi 2500 4000 Low Forest 4,8,11,18
4 Maiko 1500 2500 High Forest 13,18
5 TL2 500 1000 Low Forest 14
6 Salonga and buffer forest 2000 4000 High Forest 5, 13,18

REMNANT POPULATIONS

Definition:  Maximum size of population < 500 animals, not necessarily contiguous occurence
Descriptive estimate
A North Uele No estimate. Population fragments Very high Forest 15
B Virunga ±450 animals in isolated fragments High Forest/Savanna 22,23,24,18
C Kahuzi Biega Upland 10-50 in habitat island None Forest 18
D Lomako Few scattered over large area Low Forest 14
E Kokolopori ?? Forest 14
F Mbou mon Tour Few in small area ?? Forest 14
G Shabunda Few highly mobile High Forest 14
H Itombwe Few highly mobile Low High Plateau 14
I Upemba <200 in small area High Savanna 26
SPECULATIVE POPULATIONS Definition: no confirmation, unlikely larger than remnant populations

note: all references for any one site do not give same estimation due to differences in area covered, methods used and time of census.  In such cases, we used most recent and complete or we combined observations.

Conclusions from the map and table:

Only 6 core populations (≥ 500 elephants occupying contiguous range) remain in DR Congo.

All of these core populations, except TL2 , are in a protected area.

All of these core populations are under poaching pressure.

All of these core populations have decreased in the last 10 years, some catastrophically.

We know of nine remnant populations (< 500 elephants, often less than 50 remain).  Others are possible.

Four remnant populations are within protected areas (Virunga, Upemba, Kahuzi Biega, Lomako).

How fast are the elephants going?

Elephant population size

(estimates have different levels of precision)

The Elephant Range Historical record

Pre-1980

Before war (1986-1996) Civil War (1996-2003) Post-war Anarchy (2003-2009)
Garamba National Park  (forest/savanna)

23,000

11,175

5,980

3,800

Okapi Forest Reserve

N.D.

6800

N.D.

3,540

Maiko National Park

N.D.

6,500

N.D.

2,000

Salonga National Park

N.D.

6,330

N.D.

1,900

Kahuzi Biega  NP – upland forest

N.D.

±800

±20

±20

Kahuzi Biega NP – lowland forest

N.D.

3,720

N.D.

No sign*

Virunga National Park

2,900

469

286

±450

* this was not an exhaustive survey due to continued rebel presence, but the complete lack of elephant sign is ominous.

The size of only a few populations, shown above, was known before the war from either aerial counts or ground inventories.  Only savanna populations for which aerial counts were possible had even earlier, pre-1980 information (Garamba and Virunga).

CONCLUSION: Total DRC elephant population is likely under 20,000, and still dropping.  This is down from a population estimated at over 100,000 elephants 50 years ago.

Please, send any recent observations:  sightings, surveys, poaching.  Also if you have historical information or a good source not mentioned below, please let us know.  As of noon 1 February 09 this post has already been updated once.  Thank you Rene and Jose!

Our next elephant post will explore possible strategies to secure D.R. Congo’s elephants.  Send your ideas.

Poached elephant in Garamba during post-war anarchy

Poached elephant in Garamba during post-war anarchy- 2004

References:

1.  Alers, M.P.T., Blom,A., Sikubwabo, K., Masunda, T. and Barnes, R.F.W. !992.  Preliminary assessment of the status of the forest elephant in Zaire.  African Journal of Ecology 30, 279-291.

2.  Aveling, C. 1990.  Comptage aérien total des buffles et éléphants au Parc National des Virunga. Octobre 1990.  Programme Kivu ; sous-programme Virunga.

3.  Barnes, R.F.W. 1987.  A review of the status of elephants in the rain forests of Central Africa.  In : African Elephant Database Project : Final Report- Phase One (Eds. A. Burill & I. Douglas-Hamilton) United Nations Environment Programme.  GRID Case Study Series No.2, 41-46

4.  Beyers, Rene. 2008. Natural and anthropogenic influences on elephants and other ungulates in the Congo forest.  PhD Thesis.  University of British Columbia, Canada.  Available on-line

5. Blake, S., S. Strindberg, P. Boudjan, C. Makombo. I. Bila-Isia, O. Ilambu, F. Grossmann, L. Bene-Bene, B. de Semboli, V. Mbenzo, D. S’hwa, R. Bayogo, L. Williamson, M. Fay, J. Hart, F. Maisels.   Forest Elephant Crisis in the Congo Basin.  Available on-line

6.  de Merode, E. I. Bila, J. Telo, G. Panziama. Aug. 2005.  An aerial reconnaissance of Garamba National park with a focus on northern white rhinoceros.  Technical report to ICCN and the European Union. Further technical input from ACF and WWF-CARPO staff.

7.  Emslie, R.H., C. Reid, J. Tello. 2006.  Report on the different target species counted and evidence of poaching activity recorded during aerial and ground surveys undertaken in southern Garamba National Park and adjoining Domaine de Chasse Gangala Na Bodio, DR Congo 17th-30th March 2006. ICCN, AP, IUCN-SSC, UNESCO

8.  Grossmann, F., J. Hart & S. Dino.  (2006) Réserve de Faune à Okapi : Post conflict baseline surveys. 2005.  Central Sector “Zone Verte”  Unpubl. Report.  WCS.

9.  Hall, J.S., Bila-Isia,I., Williamson, E.A., Ilambu, O, Sikubwabo, K., White L..  1997.  A survey of  elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park lowland sector and adjacent forest in eastern Zaire.  African Journal of Ecology  35 : 213-223.

10.  Hart, J.A. and Hall, J.S. (1996) Status of eastern Zaire’s forest parks and reserves.
Conservation Biology 10 : 316-324.

11.  Hart, J., R. Beyers, F. Grossman, M. Carbo, S. Dino, F. Kahindo. April 2008.  La Réserve de Faune à Okapis: La distribution et fréquence de la grande faune et des activités humaines.  Unité d’Inventaire et de Monitoring.   IMU Technical Report No 9.  WCS- DR Congo Program, Kinshasa.

12.  Hart, J., Carbo, M., Amsini, F., Grossmann, F., Kibambe, C. 2007 Parc National de Kahuzi-Biega, secteur de Basse Altitude: Inventaire préliminaire de la grande faune avec une évaluation de l’impact des activités humaines et la situation sécuritaire. 2004 – 2007. IMU Technical Report No 8.  WCS- DR Congo Program, Kinshasa

13.  Hart, J. A. (2006) Resource Wars and Conflict Ivory: Depletion of DR Congo’s Elephants: 1996-2006.  Unpubl. ms.

14.  Hart, J.A  personal communication. contact:   [email protected]

15.  Hicks, C.  personal communication.  Contact: [email protected]

16.   Hillman Smith, A.K.K. (2001) Status of northern white rhinos and elephants in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo, during the wars.  Pachyderm 31 :79-81.

17.   Hillman Smith, A.K.K., J. Ndey, F.Smith, P. Tshikaya, G. Mboma.   (2006) Garamba National Park: Systematic aerial sample count of large mammals, April 2004 and total block surveys of rhinos and threats, July and November 2004 (unpublished report) Nairobi: IRF, ICCN, FZS, UNESCO/UNF

18.   IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) ; African Elephant Status Report 2007 :  An Update from the African Elephant Database.  J.J. Blanc, R.F.W. Barnes, G.C. Craig, H.T. Dublin, C.R. Thouless, I. Douglas-Hamilton, and J.A. Hart.  Available on-line

19.   IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) ;  African Elephant Status Report 2002: An Update from the African Elephant Database   J.J. Blanc, C.R. Thouless, J.A. Hart, H.T. Dublin, I. Douglas-Hamilton, G.C. Craig and R.F.W. Barnes.  Available on-line

20.   IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) ; African Elephant Database 1998.  R.F.W. Barnes, G.C. Craig, H.T. Dublin, G. Overton, W. Simons and C.R. Thouless.  Available on-line

21.   IUCN/SSC  African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) ; African Elephant Database 1995. M.Y.Said, R.N. Chunge, G.C. Craig, C.R. Thouless, R.F.W.Barnes and H.T. Dublin.  Available on-line

22.   Kujirakwinja, D., A. Plumptre, D. Moyer, et N. Mushemzi. 2006. Parc National des Virunga. Recensement aerien des grands mammifères, 2006.  Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, Wildlife Conservation Society, US Fish and Wildlife Service.

23.   Kujirakwinja, D.  personal communication   contact: [email protected]

24.   Matunguru, J. 2007.  Rapport de mission sur le suivi des éléphants effectuée à Kabaraza du 17 au 19 mai 2007.  Wildlife Conservation Society.  PN Virungas . Unpublished field report.

25.  Reid, C.A. 2007.  Aerial Survey. Garamba National Park. Democratic Republic of Congo. 8-16 April 2007. ICCN, AP, UNESCO, EU

26.   Vanleeuwe, Hilde. 2008.  Large mammals and human impact survey : Upemba & Kundelungu National Parks.  DR Congo.  USFWS, WCS.

13 Comments

  1. Wilehlmina
    Posted 2009-02-01 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Publishing such data can be used both positively and negatively. It also alerts those who wish to know where to locate elephants for their own ends. Is it not better not to make such information public knowledge.

  2. Terese Hart
    Posted 2009-02-01 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Alas, we get alerted to where elephants are only too often secondarily because of poaching activity. The internet is not the source of information for those that are doing the poaching. Local police and military learn from villagers and local hunters where elephants are and it goes up the chain.
    Elephants have dropped from more than 100,000 to under 20,000 in DR Congo without any help from the internet. On the otherhand, the internet is widely used by people who can, we hope, use this information to the benefit of Congo’s forest elephant….

  3. michael
    Posted 2009-02-01 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    i ‘m missing one source for the swamp forests between lake Mai-Ndombe, Salonga NP and Lukenie-Sankuru river, where elefants in high densities found a refuge in inaccessible swamp forests. This area is north westly of the salonga shape(I think this info makes the swamps not more accessible)

    “Salonga-Lukenie-Sankuru Landscape
    Summary Results of WWF Biological Surveys: 2006 – 2007”
    Lisa Steel, WWF-DRC

  4. john
    Posted 2009-02-01 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Michael for this alert. We will try to get this report, and update the map and references. We are hoping that this sort of “filling in of the map” will provide a basis for a call to action.

  5. robert
    Posted 2009-02-03 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Can comments be made in French ?

  6. Terese Hart
    Posted 2009-02-03 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Oui, bien sûr. En principe on devrait écrire en anglais et en français mais — et veuillez me pardonnez — ça nous dépasse!

  7. Terese Hart
    Posted 2009-02-03 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    vous voyez: j’aurai dû dire “veuillez me pardonner”, n’est ce pas!

  8. Terese Hart
    Posted 2009-02-04 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    WWF-DRC just sent us a valuable reference : thank you very much Omari and thank you Michael for alerting us to it. We now have another population to plot on the map — Omari added these comments:
    “Unfortunately, this elephant population is under high pressure of heavily armed bands of poachers coming as far as Mbandaka, Bandundu, Kiwkit and Ilebo. Between August and December 2008, three cases of killing of elephants by armed poachers were reported from the area!”

  9. Posted 2009-02-08 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I’ve just had a survey team come back from forests near Likati with some interesting elephant data (and two different encounters with fresh elephant dung)

    GPS:
    N03.17.029
    E023.53.231

    I’m heading back to the region this coming Wednesday and am happy to pass on any additional information I find.

    Cheers,
    Laura

  10. Terese Hart
    Posted 2009-02-08 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Laura,
    Very interesting and do keep us updated. We are collecting corrections and additions and will plan to update at least a week before the CoCoCongo (March 12) — will you be able to get us an update by early March?

  11. Posted 2009-02-10 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Absolutely. I should be back from this trip by the end of February if all goes well (our main goal this go-round is collecting chimp faeces) and will hopefully have something for you long before your deadline.

  12. Adrian
    Posted 2009-03-11 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Dear all,

    I’ve seen your materials tru one of our local news site, realitatea.net and we are, really, terified knowing that the elephants are killed, that our kids will not have posibility to see those animals in the natural environment.
    I consider your work as something great and I will follow your info, hoping that this will change something !

    Adrian

  13. Posted 2016-09-06 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Many areas of terra firmae în the map were not checked on land by anyone, on one hand, and all the swamp forests were never brought în discussion, on the other hand. Previous estimate (cca 100,000 more than 50 years ago) are just a guess like the actual estimate (cca 20,000 at present day). This is the reason why no one really know how many forest elephants are left in cca 1 million square kilometers of rainforest! All the scientist may estimate only how many elephants exist today în the protected areas (and here the number of 20,000 individuals look more likely to be real).

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] further information and tables of data read the bonoboincongo blog post […]

  2. By El “segundo Amazonas” | cursovt on 2012-03-20 at 7:02 pm

    […] La globalización también ha llegado, en una de sus peores facetas, a las selvas congoleñas, cuajadas de cazadores furtivos chinos -la mayor demanda del marfil procede del gigante asiático- que además talan árboles para edificar y construir infraestructuras de transporte. Tampoco ha ayudado la agitada historia reciente de la República Democrática del Congo, en guerra civil desde 1996 a 2002, un periodo en el que se destruyó por completo el control sobre las áreas protegidas. Resultado: la población de elefantes ha caído por debajo de los 20.000 ejemplares desde los 100.000 que poblaban el país hace 50 años. Los datos pertenecen a estimaciones recientes de John Hart, de la Wildlife Conservation Society. […]

  3. […] La globalización también ha llegado, en una de sus peores facetas, a las selvas congoleñas, cuajadas de cazadores furtivos chinos -la mayor demanda del marfil procede del gigante asiático- que además talan árboles para edificar y construir infraestructuras de transporte. Tampoco ha ayudado la agitada historia reciente de la República Democrática del Congo, en guerra civil desde 1996 a 2002, un periodo en el que se destruyó por completo el control sobre las áreas protegidas. Resultado: la población de elefantes ha caído por debajo de los 20.000 ejemplares desde los 100.000 que poblaban el país hace 50 años. Los datos pertenecen a estimaciones recientes de John Hart, de la Wildlife Conservation Society. […]

  4. […] La globalización también ha llegado, en una de sus peores facetas, a las selvas congoleñas, cuajadas de cazadores furtivos chinos -la mayor demanda del marfil procede del gigante asiático- que además talan árboles para edificar y construir infraestructuras de transporte. Tampoco ha ayudado la agitada historia reciente de la República Democrática del Congo, en guerra civil desde 1996 a 2002, un periodo en el que se destruyó por completo el control sobre las áreas protegidas. Resultado: la población de elefantes ha caído por debajo de los 20.000 ejemplares desde los 100.000 que poblaban el país hace 50 años. Los datos pertenecen a estimaciones recientes de John Hart, de la Wildlife Conservation Society. […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*