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Microsoft billionaire to fund elephant survey

Information provided by: Don Pinnock and the Conservation Action Trust

Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft, has announced that he will be funding a survey on Africa’s elephants to calculate how many actually remain, where they are found, what threats they face and whether their total population numbers are in fact increasing or decreasing.

© Chad Cocking

© Chad Cocking

The Pan-African Survey was announced at an emergency summit on the illegal ivory trade which is being held in Gaborone this week. Together with the Clinton Foundation’s million dollar anti-poaching programmes and President Obama’s decision to crush the illegal ivory stockpile in the US, Allen’s contribution reflects a world-wide concern for elephants.

Estimates of the number of African elephants left in the wild hover around the 500 000 mark, however with many areas left un-surveyed and elephant poaching happening at a rate of about one every 15 minutes, the survey will set right all assumptions and unofficial figures.

Botswana-based organisation Elephants Without Borders will co-ordinate the survey, which will take place in thirteen countries in 2014. To complete this mammoth task they will require three fixed-wing planes and two helicopters and an estimated budget of US$ 8 million.

Elephants Without Borders director Mike Chase had this to say about Allen’s contribution, “An eco-philanthropist like Paul knows what’s at stake and can identify with our vision because he visits Africa twice a year. He’s not a tourist. He talks to conservationists, biologists, villagers, staff and guides and he own lodges like Abu in the Okavango Delta. He and his sister, Jody, quietly fund so much conservation in Africa that isn’t generally known about. Their personal investment in the continent is amazing.”

Allen has expressed a concern for the future of Africa’s elephant population and using his family trust in an effort to protect them. “This is the bleakest time for the elephants,” said Allen, “The statistics on the plight of Africa’s elephants is daunting. I’m devoted to supporting new endeavours which provide meaningful science to help reverse this decline and to reduce the variability in elephant population statistics.”

Africa Geographic Editorial

We're the Africa Geographic editorial team – a diverse set of editors, designers and social media natives, all united by our passion for this addictive continent.

  • Lidia Chambers

    That’s great but he also needs to stop other rich American brats from coming to Africa and killing them for fun!

  • Cottonwood

    Money would be better spent on protecting elephants and working to stop the sale and trade of ivory worldwide. As long as people will buy ivory the numbers will continue to decline.

    • Jude Price

      I don’t see this as either/or though Barbara – it’s AND – An elephant census is needed AND effective well equipped anti-poaching, stringent laws and consistent judicial sentencing. On one hand the Elepant Data is saying from a 2012 census there are 422,000 elephants – other scientists say there are as few as 200,000 – a difference of 200,000 elephants is a huge margin – and if the lower number is right – then we need to know that and find out where they are – to better protect them.

      Sources: 2012 data 422,000 (adjusted for known losses in 2012) http://www.elephantdatabase.org/preview_report/2013_africa/Loxodonta_africana/2012/Africa

      2013 – ‘closer to 200,000’ – Katarzyna Nowak and Trevor Jones
      The Future of Africa’s Elephants: Out with Arguments Old, In with Choices Bold
      http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/09/30/the-future-of-africas-elephants-out-with-arguments-old-in-with-choices-bold/

      • Cottonwood

        Jude–I agree, it is “and,” but I still feel that the killing must be curbed and that is the higher priority at this critical point in time.

      • dg

        well said, Jude… it is “and”… and there are many efforts already started in both “boots on the ground” programs and advocacy of halting the demand, etc. which are all extremely needed, as well. However, noone has ever tried to embark on such a major task to provide a solid database of information on what is really happening w elephants, looking at their populations in their present changing environment, to date. This is not just a “study” nor are any of the scientists making money (in fact it’s going to be a lot of grueling work) and aerial surveys don’t only come up with just numbers… distribution (where they are, when they are), human encroachment, disturbances, carcass ratios, preferred habitats, open or closed corridors to those habitats and much more can be revealed from surveys… this is a major player in coming up with solid truthful information to be exposed worldwide to enhance conservation efforts, and to help prioritize efforts, as well as policy changes. It’s easy for people to make critical opinions while sitting on their couches, but others dedicate their lives, efforts and/or monies to truly help make a difference… and that should not be criticized

  • Teddy Kinyanjui

    good stuff! I bet they could do a bit of tree planting at the same time if they are going to be flying that much – they could aerial seed indigenous tree seeds over the deforested bits around the parks. even if only 1% grow…. that would be a big forest!

  • steve morvell

    Oh please….let’s top the talk and the studies ……….
    and actually DO SOMETHING!! Enough procrastination!!!!!!

    • anonymous

      Agreed. Counting elephant is not going to solve anything $8m can buy a lot in terms of good anti-poaching equipment, training, law enforcement stragegy and paying for boots on the ground. I am not convinced that this is money well-spent…what a pity.

      • Marc Mol

        It’s better than doing nothing of course, but would have liked some of the money directed at our Lion situation.

  • Ken Watkins

    Well said Lidia, a ban on the import of “Trophies” to US would be a far better use of time and money. All this will do is fund more research into allready totally discredited research by the same people. In the meantime Elephants are being slaughtered in the areas now closed to hunting in Botswana.

  • Dan Sjolseth

    I realize many have different agendas and different views of what should be done, but I for one wish to thank Paul Allen for doing what he thinks is right. He is clearly a rich man but has done much to protect and enhance the environment and could have spent his money on other passions. Thankfully he has African wildlife at heart. As my mom said many times “never look a gift horse in the mouth”.

  • theresa dauphinais

    Stop trophy hunting. Ivory is the problem. Educate people.

  • Abiot

    That is great news to here for the conservation of African Elephants. I hope the funding also include to the management of protected areas harbor African Elephants like Ethiopian National Parks and Sanctuaries.

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