While in Chobe, you will not see many rangers other than the occasional ‘poacher patrol’, so you may wonder if anyone is keeping tabs on the trends within the park. The answer is ‘yes they are’. Many of the surveys are conducted from the air. One of the teams that help with this is Elephants Without Borders (EWB), a not for profit organization that gets some of it’s funding from the commissioned surveys. Here is a summary of their work in 2009:
Aerial wildlife censuses provide governments, park managers, and conservancies with important information by determining wildlife population estimates, distributions and densities to help conserve and adaptively manage wildlife
In September 2009, the Namibia Nature Foundation commissioned Dr. Mike Chase of EWB to conduct an aerial wildlife census of the Caprivi River systems in Namibia to determine the abundance, distribution and trends of wildlife along the Caprivi’s rivers. This was the third fixed-wing aerial census of this system, previously surveyed in August 2004 (Stander 2004) and in September 2007 (Chase 2007.)
The 2009 survey was important, providing data to management authorities to compare changes and trends to previous surveys. The surveys were confined to the Kavango, Kwando, Linyanti, Chobe and Zambezi rivers and their associated wetlands and floodplains. Hippo and crocodile, floodplain ungulates including reedbuck, lechwe, waterbuck, puku and sitatunga were counted. Other large woodland mammals (elephant, buffalo, sable, kudu, zebra and impala) and wetland birds (cranes, pelicans, storks, ground hornbill and spur winged goose) and nesting/ breeding sites were also recorded. Funding and support for this survey was received from the Namibia Nature Foundation, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and World Wildlife Fund – Norway.
In October, Elephants Without Borders was also commissioned to conduct the first fixed-wing aerial census of the Chitabe concession (NG 31) in the Okavango Delta. The survey was flown by means of a total count, where the objective was to count all the animals in the concession. Large woodland mammals such as elephant, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and impala; wetland species, hippo and crocodile; and flood-plain ungulates, lechwe, reedbuck, and waterbuck; and large birds, cranes, pelicans, storks and ground hornbill were counted. Concessions such as Chitabe which adjoin Moremi Game Reserve are a critical part of the Okavango Delta ecosystem, and provide linkages and corridors for wildlife movement. At a larger scale the survey will contribute important data to current conservation and development programs’ such as the Okavango Delta Management Plan, Bio-Okavango and independent wildlife research projects. This survey was commissioned and funded by Flamingo Investments. Further support was provided by AfriScreen Films and the San Diego Zoo.