In-Depth

The Survey

The 2022 KAZA Elephant Survey was designed to help estimate elephant numbers, but it also provided crucial information about where the mammals live, their migration patterns, and how populations are changing—all information that can be used to better protect them.

Survey design

THE KAZA LANDSCAPE WAS SUBDIVIDED INTO 179 SECTIONS CALLED STRATA. Within each, observers conducted sample counts, a survey method that involves only counting elephants in parts of the survey area (called sample units) and then using those numbers to estimate the overall population size through statistical analyses.

Map of KAZA with survey regions

  ANGOLA 13 strata
  BOTSWANA 62 strata
  NAMIBIA 20 strata
  TRANSFRONTIER 6 strata
  ZAMBIA 31 strata
  ZIMBABWE 49 strata

 
survey bases

310,865 km2

Area sampled in survey

 

Survey methods

Drawing showing plane in back-and-forth pattern

TRANSECT | The KAZA survey mainly used transect sample counts, in which pilots fly back and forth along parallel transect lines spaced between 2 and 5 kilometers apart within each stratum. Observers count elephants within a 150-meter-wide “search strip” of land on either side of the plane.

Drawing showing transect sample units and block sample units

BLOCK | Block sample counts are used in mountainous areas, such as the Zambezi Escarpment, where difficult terrain and winds make low flying too dangerous. Observers count every elephant they can see in predefined areas, or “blocks,” which are selected randomly within a stratum.

 

Survey timeline

JUL ’21–AUG ’22
Survey preparation

AUG–OCT ’22
Survey execution
To maximize visibility of wildlife from the air, observers conducted the survey during the dry season months of August, September, and October, when most trees and shrubs in the landscape are leafless.

NOV ’22–JUL ’23
Data analysis and review

Survey results

227,900

Estimated elephant population
in the KAZA landscape

The survey’s findings suggest that the overall elephant population in KAZA is generally stable. While the number of elephants in Zambia has decreased compared to previous surveys, populations in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe have all increased.

Map of KAZA with elephant results plotted in blue
 
 
1 ELEPHANT
 
≥ 80 ELEPHANTS

Observations revealed a higher density and aggregation of elephants near permanent water sources and artificial water supplies.

 
Elephant bones found on ground

Measuring mortality

Observors assessed elephant mortality by counting carcasses, which accounted for around 10.5% of the total number of elephants counted. Angola, Botswana, and Zimbabwe’s Sebungwe region had the highest ratios of elephant carcasses, likely due to factors including poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict, and disease and other natural causes.

The team also estimated other wildlife and large herbivore populations.

 
HIPPOPOTAMUS
17,006
 
ROAN
7,428
 
HARTEBEEST
10,905
 
ZEBRA
88,250
 
WILDEBEEST
22,245
 
IMPALA
100,028
 
BUFFALO
78,264
 
SABLE
39,966
 
GIRAFFE
12,771

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