In Wild Heart of Africa, Dr. Neil Stronach, Selous elephant researcher during the 1990s, writes that, “The significance of the Selous for elephants is its size and the range of its habitats… There is much that is not known about the ecology and behaviour of elephants before man began to hunt them for their ivory. Congregations of many hundreds of undisturbed elephants were observed within the Selous ecosystem during the early part of the last century. It should not be an unrealistic vision for the future that the Selous elephants will return to some of their more ancient activities.”
Elephants need space and on this basis the wilderness of the Selous ecosystem represents one of the greatest refuges of the savanna elephant, rivalled only perhaps by the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and Ruaha-Rungwa. The Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi National Park and surrounding areas together cover nearly 80,000 km2 of lakes, rivers, swamps, grassland and vast miombo woodland.
Forty years ago, the Selous harboured over 100,000 elephants (and could do again one day, for the habitats have hardly changed). However, the ivory trade has decimated the Selous elephant population as harshly as anywhere on the continent, and the latest aerial census in September 2013 estimated a remaining 13,000 elephants, meaning an 80% decline in the previous seven years. In June 2014, UNESCO declared Selous to be a “World Heritage Site in danger”.
In recent decades, Selous and its elephants have been through dramatic ups and downs, and they have recovered before from near the point of collapse. With enough effort and political will from the government and supporting organisations and donors – towards both security of the entire game reserve, and respect for the people living around its edges – we believe that it will be possible to rescue this magnificent wilderness, and realise Dr. Stronach’s vision.
Our Current Programmes in Selous Game Reserve:
- Assessment of effects of poaching on elephant population structure (collaboration with TAWIRI)
- Experimental use of aerial photographs for demographic study
- Advocacy for restoration of Selous-Udzungwa wildlife corridors