Aerial Count Reveals 8% Increase in Ol Pejeta’s Wildlife

We took to the skies in June, just before the onset of this year’s rains, to conduct Ol Pejeta’s first dry season wildlife count. Ideally, this count would have been conducted in March, but heavy turbulence throughout the month denied us our wings.

Counting wildlife is a time-consuming and expensive operation, but gathering data on key species* is vital in ensuring we create and adapt the most effective conservation strategies. We’ve been doing this since 2010, and are building up a valuable database to compare and grow.

*Our wildlife counts exclude predators, rhinos and primates.

The team observed significant clustering of wildlife in this count compared to other counts. This made it easy to spot and count herds of buffalo and zebra (perhaps making this count slightly more accurate than previous ones). We won’t know whether the clustering is due to the scarcity of water until we conduct more dry season counts in the future.

Numbers of animals counted can be seen in the graphic, but here are some other great insights we learned from the count:

  • The total count suggests gradual increase in wildlife population by about 8% compared with 2017
  • There has been a 62% increase in buffalo numbers on 2017. This year we had a record herd size with 250 individuals!
  • There has been a 3% increase in zebra numbers. Interestingly, in 2017 only five groups of more than 100 individuals were counted. This year, we counted 12 large groups, with a record herd of 450!
  • We recorded the highest number of Jackson’s hartebeest in five years
  • There was skewed wildlife distribution with a bias to the west of the Ewaso Nyiro River, and more toward the northern sector (the Ol Lerai - Kamok road being the boundary). This was unsurprising, as these areas had premature showers about a month before the count.
  • We recorded a significant drop in giraffe numbers – although a marked increase in numbers in Mutara which may suggest giraffe movement from northern parts of Ol Pejeta to Mutara.

Mutara conservation area

  • Mutara’s wildlife population has increased a staggering 78% since the previous count.
  • We counted double the number of giraffes
  • There was a 30% increase in buffalo numbers
  • 72% increase in zebra numbers
  • 44 oryx were counted, compared to none in 2017.