Africa Geographic Travel

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.”

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