Billionaire funds African elephant survey
One of the founders of Microsoft, Paul Allen is adding his financial weight to the protection of elephants across the entire African continent. Earlier in December he announced his family trust will fund an Africa-wide survey to establish how many elephants remain.
There is world-wide concern over the future of elephants, which are poached at the rate of about one every 15 minutes. Estimates of elephant numbers in Africa range from 410,000 to 650,000 and many populations have not been surveyed for many years. ‘Counts’ are often based on conjecture and assumptions.
The Pan-African Survey will be coordinated by Elephants Without Borders (EWB), which is based in Botswana. It will require three fixed-wing aeroplanes and two helicopters doing tight transects in 13 elephant-range countries during the 2014 dry season. The aim will be to find where elephants are on the continent, whether they are increasing or declining and what threats they face. The cost will be around US$8 million.
‘I’m honoured that his agreement to support the survey was instantaneous,’ said EWB director Mike Chase. ‘An eco-philanthropist like Paul knows what’s at stake 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.’ Elephants once roamed across 46 African countries, but are now limited to 35. In 20 of these, populations number less than 1000 individuals. Their range has been reduced to 15% of Africa’s total surface area. Elephants may soon be extinct in Central and West Africa. Poaching is driven by the demand for ivory in Asia.