The Great Elephant Census: Ambitious Project Counts African Elephant Population


What do you do if you’re looking to make a difference with your Silicon Valley fortune? Microsoft billionaire Paul G. Allen decided to fund the Great Elephant Census, the largest-ever aerial survey of the elephant population on the African continent. The project began in early 2014, and after a total of 285,000 miles flown by multiple research teams, today the fieldwork is nearly complete and the detailed data analysis is beginning.


What are some of the most interesting findings of the project so far? Here are some highlights, courtesy of National Geographic.


The elephant population in Tanzania dropped a surprising 53% from 109,000 in 2009 to just 51,000 in 2015. Experts note that Tanzania is the main source of illegal East African elephant ivory. Mozambique is experiencing a similar decline in its elephant population—48% in five years.


What’s some good news from the census? The elephant population in Botswana is holding steady at nearly 130,000. Uganda’s elephant population rose from 1,000 around 30 years ago to 5,000 today. Zimbabwe has experienced a relatively small decline in total numbers--6%--since 2001.


Conservationists are eager to implement strategic conservation efforts based on the large amounts of detailed data gathered during this important survey.




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