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. 

Based in Botswana, Elephants Without Borders is led by Dr. Mike Chase and specializes in studying the ecology of elephants with the official endorsement and full support of government authorities. The Great Elephant Census was conceptualized by EWB, and the organization will take the lead counting the elephant population in Angola, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The project is scheduled to take two years to complete. In the first year, we’ll survey elephants and other large herbivores in more than 18 countries, including: Angola, Botswana, Chad, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia 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 the data, publish and present it. We expect to release preliminary survey results in mid-2015 and make select data available to academics, NGOs and governments championing 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 data that can enhance research is a key attribute of Paul Allen's initiatives, including the Allen Institute for Brain Science