According to the online Elephant Database (supported by the IUCN Species Survival Commission), there were 278,520 elephants counted in Africa in 2013. This number represents a decline from the numbers reported in 2006 research, when the total number of elephants in Southern Africa numbered 297,487. The 2013 research was conducted in nine countries in the Southern Africa region: Zambia, Swaziland, Angola, Malawi, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, and Mozambique.

There were several methods used in data collection during the 2013 research, including aerial and ground counts, reliable dung counts, direct sample counts and informed guesses. It is important to note that speculative figures were used in regions where the 2013 survey was not physically conducted. In areas where the 2013 study could not be completed, probable and possible numbers were derived using figures from previous years as well as educated guesses.


According to data from the Elephant Database, Botswana had the highest number of elephants on the continent with a definite number of 133,453 individuals. This translates to about 47.91% of the total number of elephants in the region. Botswana’s high population of elephants is attributed to world-class conservation efforts as well as political good will from the country’s government.

Much of the elephant population in Botswana is concentrated in the Chobe National Park, particularly along the Chobe River which supports as many as 50,000 elephants in the dry season. The Okavango Delta is another region supporting a large elephant population, attributed to the permanent water availability. However, in some areas in Botswana, the elephant’s range overlaps human habitation, and human-wildlife conflict is a common occurrence. Sometimes, if an elephant destroys crops, farmers will retaliate by killing the giant animals. Intervention measures are being implemented in such regions to avert the human-wildlife conflicts, an example of which includes the spraying of crops with chili pepper as a deterrent.


Zimbabwe had the second largest population of elephants with 67,954 individuals reported. However, this represented a significant drip from the 84,416 individuals reported in 2006. This is unfortunately due to high poaching levels in Zimbabwe with poachers killing around 1,200 elephants every year. Many of Zimbabwe’s elephants are located within Hwange National Park with the 2013 data reporting 34,322 individuals.


Swaziland had the lowest elephant population with only 35 individuals. However, the small kingdom was one of the only countries to report a population growth. Swaziland had a 12% increase in elephant population from the 2006 figures. The elephants are mostly found in the Mkhaya Game Reserve and the Royal National Park.

Conservation Efforts

According to the data from the 2013 survey, the elephant numbers had steadily declined from the numbers witnessed during the 2006 survey. Fortunately, governments all over the continent have been increasing their conservation efforts. In 2016, Swaziland shipped 18 elephants to the US to save the dwindling population from facing extinction. In 2013, the government of Botswana stopped the issuing of hunting licenses and banned any form of game hunting as a way to curb poaching.

Countries by their Elephant Population

RankCountryEst. Elephant Population, 2013 
3South Africa20,260