Desert Elephant Conservation

2018 Annual Research Report

Left Fang/Skewetand and calf in 2016. Left Fang died in April 2018 of unknown ailment, her carcass was found in November 2018 by Puros Conservancy staff.

Summary and Significance

We compiled data from our research (2006-2018) along with published accounts dating back to 1975 on the desert-dwelling elephant population in our study area of Skeleton Coast National Park and western Kunene region. This includes the Hoarusib-Hoanib, and Uniab subpopulations.

The current number of resident elephants in the Hoarusib-Hoanib subpopulation is 34 (based on exact counts of known individuals). This number is down from 2017 when there was a total of 36 elephants, because two deaths occurred in 2018. In the Uniab drainage study area, all of the elephants had gone out of the study area and into the surrounding mountains following the rains, so we were not able to observe them. The estimate from 2017 of ~50 elephants remains the most current estimate.

The total for these three study areas is ~84 elephants. By comparison, Viljoen (1987) documented 86 individuals in the same area in 1981, during the height of drought and poaching.

“The 10,000NAD received from TOSCO was well spent on the fuel that is necessary to carry out this long term research and monitoring project. Thanks again, and we look forward to continued support from TOSCO as we enter into our 15th year on this project in 2019.”

Dr. Laura Brown


Detailed Results

The following data on elephants of the Hoarusib, Hoanib, and Uniab river drainages is based on exact counts of known individuals from our ID photo database.

1) Hoarusib River elephants = 16 total total.


The home range and migration routes of these elephants include: Skeleton Coast National Park, and the conservancies of Sesfontein, Puros, Okondjombo, Ombujokanguindi, Otjiu-West, and Ongongo.

2) Hoanib River = 18 elephants total.

In the Hoanib River west of Sesfontein, 18 elephants remain.
A two-year-old calf died in May 2018 in the floodplain, of unknown cause. He was healthy when last observed, but disappeared shortly thereafter, possibly due to an accident. The carcass was not found.
The home range and migration routes of these elephants include: Skeleton Coast National Park, Sesfontein Conservancy, and Palmwag Concession Area. This group consists of: 8 females of breeding age (12, 14, 18, 19, 23, 31, ~46, ~46 years) 6 juveniles (5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8 years)
2 calves under age two (born 2016 and 2017)
2 males of breeding age (26 and 33 years)

3) Uniab River

This subpopulation primarily inhabits the Palmwag Concession Area and immediate surroundings during the dry season. The home range and migration routes of these elephants includes: Skeleton Coast National Park, Palmwag Concession, Etendeka Concession, Torra Conservancy, and #Khoadi//Hôas Conservancy.)
For 2018, the Uniab drainage has a population estimate of ~50 elephants.

To have more information about the Desert Elephant Conservation Report please click here:

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