Great Kenya Wildlife Aerial Count

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is currently performing an aerial survey of buffaloes, elephants, giraffes and Grevy’s zebras this year in the northern part of Kenya’s landscape. This aerial survey takes place in several parts of Kenya namely: Laikipia, Isiolo, Samburu, Meru, and Marsabit. According to Paul Gathitu, the KWS spokesperson, they will compare the final data from the past year’s aerial survey to this year’s. The purpose of the survey is to distinguish the trends of the species and to substantiate their total distribution and numbers.

The KWS will be using 15 aircraft to perform the systematic survey of the mentioned ecosystems. After gathering the information, they will use the data to compare it to previous surveys for evaluating the success of the species and landscape conservation. This is also to know what factors need more attention in the future, in terms of conservation resources. Trends in livestock, human settlements, and land use are also included in the survey.


Below are the goals of performing the survey in Kenya:

  1. Understanding the distribution of giraffe and elephant, and other animals in relation to the water resource and human activities,
  2. Mapping out human activities outside and inside the protected areas, such as logging, fences, settlements, charcoal burning, and farming,
  3. Documenting the numbers and distribution of livestock, which includes camels, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys,
  4. Interpreting information to guide the management of elephant, and other wildlife in Kenya.


The Great Kenya Wildlife Aerial Count includes more than 65,516.96 square kilometres and will take seven days at minimum to cover using an aircraft. This area is one of the greatest wildlife conservations in Kenya. Many wildlife animals survive here because of the proper treatment of the residents, which includes their land use that also supports wildlife.


The last survey was performed in June in the ecosystem of Tsavo-Mkomazi, which spans both Tanzania and Kenya. The total count of elephant was 12,866 composing of 12,843 in Tsavo and 23 in the national park of Mkomazi, which is also in Tanzania. Tsavo-Mkomazi’s elephant population has seen an increase of 14.7% for the years 2014 to 2017, with a growth of 4.9% annually.


There are 1,167 carcasses in total that were gathered during the survey. This total number is consisting of 53.4% of the “oldest” elephant carcasses, and 44% of the “older” ones. There were only 30 recent carcasses recorded during the aerial survey.


In 2017, the number of giraffe was 4,323. When you compare it to the 2014’s census of 2,891 giraffe, you can see there is a significant increase in their number. The group sizes of 80 giraffe that were counted have also seen an increase of 49.5%. This is good news considering the threats from the poachers of bushmeat.

Human Activities

The census also mentions an increase of the human activities inside and outside the protected areas compared to the past years. To find out more about Kenya’s wildlife aerial count, try to visit the website of Asilia Africa.


USAID is giving a funding support to KWS and other organizations. Many individuals and companies volunteer their expertise and time to make this year’s survey a successful one.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.