Poaching has driven elephant population from the highs of about one million in the 90s to around half a million today. Of the 500 000 in Africa, almost 40 percent are in Botswana, signaling that elephants have a tendency to avoid areas such as Angola that are hard hit by poaching to safer zones in northern Botswana. “We are actually losing an elephant every 15 minutes in Africa.

Largest elephant census on its way

Kenia, olifanten Mount KenyaElephants Without Borders will lead the Great Elephant Census, the largest pan-Africa aerial survey that will generate data critical to the species’ survival. Responding to the highest rate of elephant mortality in history, investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen is advancing a major elephant conservation initiative in Africa to provide new information.

The Great Elephant Census is the largest survey since the 1970s. Ivory trade and poaching pose serious threats to African elephants and experts predict there is a risk that this species could disappear from many parts of the continent for good.

The two-year census project will provide accurate data about the numbers and distribution of the African elephant population, including geographic range, forming an essential baseline that will benefit conservation efforts. “I’ve spent enough time in Africa to see the impacts of poaching and habitat loss on the continent’s elephant population,” says Allen, who is the co-founder of Microsoft. “By generating accurate, foundational data, I’m hopeful that this project will significantly advance the conservation efforts of this iconic species.”

Olifanten, Paul G AllenThe census continues Allen’s history of supporting global initiatives with the potential to catalyze research and solutions that accelerate progress on both scientific and social fronts. His strong ties to Africa include his investment of more than $10 million since 2008 to help support wildlife and landscape conservation efforts, and community and economic development projects.

Historically, counts of Africa’s savanna elephants have varied in quality and some have been speculative, which can lead to incorrect conclusions about population status and trends. An accurate count of the African elephant population using up-to-date scientific techniques is a vital step in managing conservation efforts, identifying poaching hotspots and guiding law enforcement interventions, and assessing the impact of threats, such as habitat loss.

“Over the past few years, I have documented with regret the slow retreat of elephants from habitats they were rapidly repopulating,” said Dr. Mike Chase, director and founder of Elephants Without Borders. “The threat of local extinction feels very real. In October 2013 we flew a survey over a park where we had previously counted more than 2,000 elephants. We counted just 33 live elephants and 55 elephant carcasses. That is why this research is so important.”

Elephants Without Borders, which has developed a reputation for providing novel and meaningful information for the conservation of African elephants, conceptualized and will conduct the survey in close collaboration with in-country conservation organizations and governments. The survey is scheduled to take two years. In the first year, the team will survey the population and other large herbivores in 22 countries representing Olifanten, vliegtuig voor censusbetween 95 percent of Africa’s savanna elephants. In the second researchers will analyze the data and package findings. Preliminary survey results are expected in mid-2015 and will be shared with academics, NGOs, and governments championing animal and land conservation.

The survey will comprise 18 planes, 46 scientists and about 19,000 transects, totaling 600,000 km, which will be flown in 18,000 hours over 7 months of flyovers, and will involve African governments and NGOs, including the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group, World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, Frankfurt Zoological Society, African Parks Network and Save the Elephants.

To read more about the project, you can go to the site of Elephants Without Borders

The funding for the project comes from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation

Paul Allen also has an own site

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