Final Report Survey of Small Elephant Populations in South Africa
Dr M Landman and Prof GIH Kerley
February 2018

1. PROJECT BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT Since the early-1980s the number of fenced elephant populations on private property in South Africa has grown considerably, contributing to the challenges around elephant-relevant policy and management. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has a responsibility towards the development of evidence-based policy and legislation, and to facilitate policy-relevant research for the management of elephant in South Africa. To serve these requirements, DEA, supported by South African National Parks, developed the South African Elephant Research Strategy, identifying specific research fields that support the implementation of the National Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephant in South Africa (DEA 2008). DEA is committed to supporting this strategy, through the funding of specific research initiatives. Thus, on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding that facilitates research between DEA and the Nelson Mandela University (NMU), DEA approached the Centre for African Conservation Ecology to undertake elephant research aligned with the priorities identified in the strategy document. To this end a Memorandum of Agreement between DEA and NMU was signed in March 2016, comprising three phases, including (1) A survey of the small elephant populations in South Africa1 , (2) Investigating the role of habitat expansion in mediating the impacts of elephant in succulent thicket in the Addo Elephant National Park, and (3) Capacity building for elephant policy development and implementation amongst stakeholders. Phases 2 and 3 are reported on in Landman et al. (2017) and Landman & Kerley (2017a), respectively.

Besides the population in the Kruger National Park (KNP, see de Flamingh et al. 2018), elephant populations in South Africa are highly fragmented and managed under various institutional arrangements, ranging from national parks to private owners (Mketeni 2012). Thus, as identified in the Elephant Research Strategy, there are many highly artificially segregated and distinct populations in small, isolated reserves. These small populations (i.e. those not in KNP) represent considerable risks and challenges to the development and implementation of elephant-related policy and legislation, given prospects of unconstrained population growth, biodiversity impacts, human-wildlife conflicts, poaching and the demand for hunting. In addition, many of the management interventions prescribed in the National Norms and Standards are being implemented (usually as part of an approved Elephant Management Plan) across these populations. It is therefore critical that DEA has a clear understanding of the locations, profiles and management of these small populations. However, as confirmed by Mketeni (2012), information on these populations is sparse, incomplete and what is available in Mketeni (2012) is now out-dated. Thus, in terms of the MoA between DEA and NMU, a Final Report that provides an analysis of the locations and characteristics of small elephant populations in South Africa is due, and this report meets that requirement.

2. THE APPROACH Our approach to record and characterise small elephant populations across South Africa comprised the following:

 A scan of all the available published information (Anon 1991, 1994, Hall-Martin 1992, Van Jaarsveld et al. 1999, Kerley et al. 2002, 2006, Garai et al. 2004, Cumming & Jones 2005, Blanc et al. 2007, Scholes & Mennell 2008, Mketeni 2012) dealing with surveys of small elephant populations in South Africa.

 A survey of elephant locations in South Africa consolidated as part of MammalMap (Animal Demography Unit 2018), an open-access digital database of African mammal species.

 A comprehensive online survey of all “National Parks”, “Game Reserves”, “Nature Reserves”, “Wildlife Reserves”, “Conservancies” and “Wilderness” areas that might maintain “Elephant”.

 Approaching relevant national and provincial government departments and parastatals responsible for the management of elephant, including
– Department of Environmental Affairs (Directorates: Biodiversity and Conservation and Threatened or Protected Species and CITES)
– South African National Parks
– South African National Biodiversity Institute (Department: Biodiversity Research Assessment and Monitoring)
– The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa
– Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism
– Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency
– Cape Nature
– Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife
– Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency
– Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment & Tourism
– North West Department of Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development
– North West Parks and Tourism Board
– Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
– Free State Department of Economic Development Tourism and Environmental Affairs
– Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation

 Approaching other private groups that possibly maintain information on elephant in South Africa, including

– The Elephant Specialist Advisory Group
– Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) – this included the placement of an advertisement in Wildlife Ranching Magazine (2016) and an e-alert to WRSA members requesting information on elephant populations in South Africa.

 Approaching organizations that are involved in the movement of elephant across South Africa, specifically Elephants, Rhinos & People.

 To confirm that all the identified properties maintain elephant populations and obtain up-todate contact details, we contacted (via email and/or phone) each property individually.

 An online (and/or paper) survey aimed at characterizing each population in terms of its history, attributes (i.e. size, density) and ecology (i.e. vegetation resources) was formulated and circulated to all the identified properties (Landman & Kerley 2017b).

 The above database on the locations and characteristics of small elephant populations was updated as new information became available.

Read full report here: