Why count elephants? Having accurate and reliable data about elephant population numbers and distribution is needed to form long-term conservation management plans.

About the Count

The Great Elephant Census is designed to provide accurate and up-to-date data about the number and distribution of African elephants by using standardized aerial surveys of tens of hundreds of thousands of square miles. Dozens of researchers flying in small planes will capture comprehensive observational data of elephants and elephant carcasses. 

In many countries, surveys have not been flown in as many as 10 years, and without this data, it is challenging to assess the current state of elephant populations. Additionally, the existing data isn't well organized.  The resulting database will provide valuable information to governments, scientists and NGOs so they can make smart decisions on how to manage elephant populations. 

The Great Elephant Census was conceptualized by Elephants Without Borders, and is supported by other organizations and individuals on the ground in Africa and globally including African Parks, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group, Howard Frederick, Mike Norton-Griffith, Kevin Dunham, Colin Craig, Debbie Gibson, Chris Touless and Curtice Griffin. 

The project is scheduled to take two years to complete. In the first year, we’ll survey elephants and other large herbivores in 20 countries, including: Angola, Botswana, Chad, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. This will account for about 80 percent of the savanna elephant range and allow us to count roughly 90 percent of Africa’s savanna elephants.

In the second year, we’ll analyze and validated the data, submit it for publication and make it available to NGOs and governments to support their efforts in animal and land conservation. We will also be exploring how new technologies can improve on established aerial survey methods and allow for enhanced data gathering. Leveraging cutting-edge technology to gather open-source data that can enhance research is a key attribute of Paul Allen's initiatives, including the Allen Institute for Brain Science