Eastern Africa


General Statistics

Total Area: 6,182,037 km2

Range area (% of region): 880,063 km2 (16%)

Protected area coverage (% of region): 7%

Protected range (% of known and possible range in protected areas): 30%

Information Quality Index (IQI): 0.36

Current Issues

As elephant populations in Eastern Africa recover from the poaching episodes of the 1970s and 1980s, human population growth and the concomitant loss and fragmentation of habitats are now the chief threats facing elephants in the region. The resulting high levels of human-elephant conflict prevalent in many areas, coupled with the generalized lack of economic incentives for those sharing their resources with wildlife, highlight the need for sound land use planning policies and incentive systems to ensure the long-term viability of Eastern Africa's elephant populations. The viability of some populations, including those in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia and certain parts of Uganda is already uncertain, while the status of elephants in Sudan remains unknown.

In 2007, Tanzania became the first country in the region to seek a downlisting of its elephant population from CITES Appendix I to Appendix II (see Tanzania section for details). While Tanzania is also the only country in the region to have developed and implemented a national elephant management policy (Department of Wildlife, 1995; Wildlife Division, 2001), Kenya is in the process of developing its own national elephant conservation strategy. As many of the challenges facing the conservation of elephants are common to several countries in the region, and since a number of important transboundary populations exist, the formulation of a regional strategy would be desirable.

Range Data

Savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana africana) are found in the grasslands and woodlands that dominate the Eastern African landscape, as well as in coastal and montane forest areas. Remnants of Central African forest, along the western edge of the region, may hold forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis) or hybrids.

Elephant range in Eastern Africa is currently estimated to span over 880,000 km2, and accounts for 26% of continental range. The region ranks third in terms of range extent, behind Southern and Central Africa. The estimated range area has declined by 10% compared with the previous report, largely as a result of updates and improvements in the quality of information available. Approximately 30% of total range lies within designated protected areas.

Elephant distribution is relatively well known, with 57% of range being currently categorized as known, and three-quarters of the data being less than 10 years old. Considerable uncertainty remains, however, as to the distribution of elephants in southern Sudan and Somalia, as well as in unprotected parts of western Tanzania. It is noteworthy that Tanzania and Sudan together account for 80% of the region's estimated range area.

Population Data

The overall quality of information for Eastern Africa, as measured by the IQI, has not changed substantially since the AESR 2002. The IQI for the region, which remains relatively low at 0.36, is only higher than the score for Central Africa. This is due largely to the poor quality of information available for Sudan, which accounts for a sizeable proportion of continental and regional range.

Eastern Africa's largest known populations are found in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, with Tanzania alone holding about 80% of the regional population. Elephant population estimates are only available for 45% of the estimated range area (approximately 394,000 km2), but estimates for 86% of this area originate from systematic surveys and are therefore considered to be reliable. Out of 41 new estimates for Eastern African input zones featured in this report, 27 originate from systematic surveys.

Estimates from methodologically comparable, systematic surveys have caused the number of elephants under the definite category to increase by about 19,770. As a result of new estimates from repeated surveys, but also influenced by estimates from surveys conducted using different techniques or covering different areas, numbers in the probable and possible categories have increased by about 11,340 and 12,610 respectively. Estimates from new guesses and from surveys conducted using different techniques are largely responsible for the decrease of nearly 2,200 in the speculative category.

The combined estimate from methodologically comparable surveys (i.e. those labelled repeat survey or rs in the tables of estimates; see Appendix II for a list of sites), which accounts for 78% of the regional definite plus probable estimate, has increased by 18% compared with the previous report. However, the actual difference of 19,948 ± 32,356 in the methodologically comparable estimates for Eastern Africa is not statistically significant (t = 1.21, p > 0.10). An analysis of changes in methodologically comparable estimates for Eastern and Southern Africa combined can be found in the Continental Overview section of this report.

Cross-border Movements

Cross-border populations of elephants occur along the western border of the region with Central Africa and between its southern border and the Southern Africa region.


Aerial or Ground Total Counts 24,003 0 0 0
Direct Sample Counts and Reliable Dung Counts 112,111 27,990 27,990 0
Other Dung Counts 449 1,053 462 0
Informed Guesses 922 0 6,671 1,534
Other Guesses 0 0 0 2,009
TOTAL 2006 137,485 29,043 35,124 3,543
TOTALS 2002 117,716 17,702 22,511 5,738


Repeat Survey +22,019 +6,003 +5,929 -550
New Population -326 +777 +789 +83
Different Technique -1,202 +2,921 +2,698 -1,108
Different Area -2,511 +2,509 +2,478 0
New Guess +811 0 +2,563 -1,556
New Analysis +978 -870 -859 0
Data Degraded 0 0 -985 +936
TOTAL CHANGE +19,769 +11,341 +12,613 -2,195


Data Category Known Range Possible Range Total Range
Aerial or Ground Total Counts 98,936 9,054 107,989
Direct Sample Counts and Reliable Dung Counts 213,940 11,840 225,779
Other Dung Counts 3,150 0 3,150
Informed Guesses 27,622 15,950 43,572
Other Guesses 10,082 3,089 13,171
Unassessed Range 145,148 341,252 486,400
TOTAL 498,878 381,185 880,063


Eritrea 96 0 8 0 5,293 1 100 0.92 3
Ethiopia 634 0 920 206 38,365 4 68 0.24 2
Kenya 23,353 1,316 4,946 2,021 107,113 12 82 0.64 2
Rwanda 34 0 37 46 1,014 0 100 0.29 4
Somalia 0 0 0 70 4,526 1 68 0.00 3
Sudan 20 0 280 0 318,239 36 0 0.00 1
Tanzania 108,816 27,937 29,350 900 390,366 44 66 0.54 1
Uganda 2,337 1,985 1,937 300 15,148 2 74 0.49 3
TOTAL* 137,485 29,043 35,124 3,543 880,063 26 45 0.36 2

* Note that totals for the Definite, Probable and Possible categories are derived by pooling the variances of individual estimates, as described under the Data Types and Categorization section. As a result, totals do not necessarily match the simple sum of the entries within a given category.

1 IQI: Information Quality Index. This index quantifies overall data quality at the national and regional levels based on the precision of estimates and the proportion of assessed elephant range (i.e. range for which estimates are available). The IQI ranges from zero (no reliable information) to one (perfect information). See the Introduction section for a detailed explanation of how the IQI is calculated.

2 PFS: Priority for Future Surveys, ranked from 1 to 5 (highest to lowest). Based on the IQI and the proportion of continental range accounted for by the country in question, the PFS is a measure of the importance and urgency for future population surveys, particularly in areas of unassessed range and areas not surveyed in the last 10 years or more. See Introduction for a more detailed explanation of how the priority ranking is derived.


General Statistics

Country area: 121,320 km2

Range area (% of country): 5,293 km2 (4%)

Protected area coverage (% of country): 0%

Protected range (% of known and possible range in protected areas): 0%

Information Quality Index (IQI): 0.92

CITES Appendix: I

Listing Year: 1989

Current Issues

Continued tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia make conservation and research work difficult. The area in which elephants live continues to be unprotected, and conflicts with farmers are common.

Implementation of a plan to fit a number of elephants with radio collars to investigate their movement patterns met with unexpected delays and had not commenced at the time of writing.

Range Data

Elephants in Eritrea are confined to the south of the Gash Barka District, along the Ethiopian border in the southwest of the country. The area where elephants are found is bound by the seasonal Gash River to the north and the permanent Setit River, which forms the border with Ethiopia, to the south.

No changes have been made to the range map for this report, and the information depicted is still based on a study of elephant sign and spoor conducted by Shoshani et al. (2004).

Population Data

A systematic survey of the Gash-Setit population was planned for 2004 (Shoshani et al., 2004), but did not take place. Sightings of large groups continue to be regularly reported by farmers, United Nations personnel and researchers. A total of 83 elephants were seen during an expedition to the area in early 2003 (Hagos et al., 2003). Later in 2003, two distinct groups were photographed from the air, one composed of at least 79 elephants and a smaller one of at least 17. These sightings are believed to have nearly covered Eritrea's elephant population, estimated at around 100 animals, in its entirety (J. Shoshani, pers. comm., 2006; Shoshani et al., 2004). These sightings have been entered as an informed guess, replacing a 2003 informed guess by the same authors. Changes in the definite, possible and speculative categories therefore reflect better information, rather than changes in the size of the elephant population.

Cross-border Movements

Eritrea's elephants form part of a single transboundary population that straddles the border with Ethiopia to the south. There appears to be a regular movement pattern, with elephants spending the dry season (October to March) in Eritrea and crossing the border twice every year to spend the wet season in Ethiopia (Shoshani et al., 2004). The mapped elephant range extends to the Sudanese border, but Shoshani et al. (2004) believe that elephants do not cross that border.


Aerial or Ground Total Counts 0 0 0 0
Informed Guesses 96 0 8 0
TOTALS2006 96 0 8 0
TOTALS 2002 83 0 17 20


New Guess +13 0 -9 -20
TOTAL CHANGE +13 0 -9 -20


Data Category Known Range Total Range
Aerial or Ground Total Counts 18 18
Informed Guesses 5,275 5,275
TOTAL 5,293 5,293


Gash-Setit NG IG3 D 2003 104 Shoshani et al., 2004 1 5,275 37.3 E 14.8 N
Sheraro AT2 A 1997 0 Litoroh, 1997a 534 37.6 E 14.4 N

1 Key to Causes of Change: DA: Different Area; DD: Data Degraded; DT: Different Technique; NA: New Analysis; NG: New Guess; NP: New population; PL: Population Lost; RS: Repeat Survey (RS' denotes a repeat survey that is not statistically comparable for reasons such as different season); —: No Change

2 Key to Survey Types: AS: Aerial Sample Count; AT: Aerial Total Count; DC: Dung Count; GD: Genetic Dung Count; GS: Ground Sample Count; GT: Ground Total Count; IG: Informed Guess; IR: Individual Registration; OG: Other Guess. Survey Type is followed by an indicator of survey quality, ranked from 1 to 3 (best to worst). Survey Reliability is keyed A–E (best to worst)

3 PFS: Priority for Future Surveys, ranked from 1 to 5 (highest to lowest). Based on the precision of estimates and the proportion of national range accounted for by the site in question, PFS is a measure of the importance and urgency for future population surveys. All areas of unassessed range have a priority of 1. See Introduction for details on how the PFS is derived.


General Statistics

Country area: 1,127,127 km2

Range area (% of country): 38,365 km2 (4%)

Protected area coverage (% of country): 11%

Protected range (% of known and possible range in protected areas): 61%

Information Quality Index (IQI): 0.24

CITES Appendix: I

Listing Year: 1989

Current Issues

Despite the creation of some new wildlife areas, resources for protection within reserves remain limited, and non-existent outside. In order to address this issue, the Ethiopian Government is experimenting with new management approaches in some of its parks and reserves. In 2005 the African Parks Foundation took over the management of Nechisar National Park. Although Nechisar does not have any elephants, development plans include the translocation of this and other species into the park. The management of Omo, a national park that is periodically visited by elephants, was also taken over by African Parks the following year. African Parks aims to generate revenue from tourism and to share benefits with local communities, but both projects have been controversial amidst claims that indigenous peoples were forcibly resettled or denied access to traditional subsistence resources (IUCN/CEESP, 2005).

At the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, held in Santiago, Chile in 2002, and following a 2002 report identifying it as having the largest unregulated ivory market in Eastern Africa (Milliken et al., 2002), Ethiopia was placed in a list of 10 “priority countries” where action was most needed to control the global ivory trade. At the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in 2004, Ethiopia remained on the global “priority list”, but more recent reports suggest that the country has made significant progress towards controlling its domestic ivory market (Milledge & Abdi, 2005).

Poaching is reported to continue in areas such as Gambella National Park (Y. Demeke, pers. comm., 2006), and there is still a need to accurately assess the status of elephant populations at the national level.

Range Data

Most of Ethiopia's elephant range is concentrated in the west. Elephant populations are small, fragmented and highly mobile, and their movements are poorly understood. Several areas previously classified as possible range around Mizan Teferi Controlled Hunting Area and along the border with Sudan, have been re-categorized as doubtful range, based on the Landscan 2002 human population data set. This has reduced the estimated total range area for Ethiopia by around 13,000 km2.

A recent study has established that a remnant population in the newly created Chebera-Churchura Regional Park is resident in the park throughout the year. This population is believed to be isolated from the highly mobile population that visits the nearby Omo and Mago National Parks (M. Admassu, cited by Y. Demeke, pers. comm., 2006), and the area is now shown as known range.

The seasonal presence of elephants has been confirmed in the newly created Alatash Wildlife Conservation Area. They are said to come from Dinder National Park, across the border in Sudan. As the boundary for