Non-profit Elephants Without Borders will coordinate a 2-year-long census called The Great Elephant Census that is set to start in February 2014.
The ambitious project will be the largest pan-Africa aerial survey since the 1970s and will provide new information critical to the species’ future survival such as accurate data about the numbers and distribution of the African elephant population, including geographic range, forming an essential baseline that will benefit conservation efforts.
“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, Elephants Without Borders.
“The threat of local extinction feels very real. In October 2013, Elephants Without Borders 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.”
“I’ve spent enough time in Africa to see the impacts of poaching and habitat loss on the continent’s elephant population,” said leading investor Allen.
“By generating accurate, foundational data about African elephants, I’m hopeful that this project will significantly advance the conservation efforts of this iconic species.”
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 of elephants and other large herbivores in 22 countries representing between 95 percent of Africa’s savanna elephants. In the second year, 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.
The world elephant population has seen a dramatical decrease for years now in order to feed demand for horns and tusks in Asia, with an estimated 30,000 elephants killed in 2012 alone and more than 18 tons of elephant ivory seized in 2013.