Paul Allen: Idea man and philanthropist

Paul Allen has a distinctive approach to philanthropy. He is dedicated to taking risks, both big and small. Everyone already knows what proven ideas can do – it’s the unproven ones he’s interested in. He partners with organizations that have brave, creative leadership and are willing to move beyond predictably good results to launch projects that will rewrite the future and create powerful ripple effects in the world.

That is why he has partnered with a collection of conservation partners in Africa to bring the Great Elephant Census to life. This is an opportunity to use large-scale research to uncover data and insights that can empower people across Africa as they work to protect elephant populations for the long term. This approach is unconventional and a bold undertaking, but it’s urgently needed, and so he has provided more than $7 million to fund the census. He’s committed to the belief that through science and innovation we can conquer what initially appears insurmountable.  

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A letter from Paul Allen

Dr. Mike Chase and Paul Allen

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

Thank you for coming to learn more about the Great Elephant Census. People across the globe have a stake in ensuring that wild elephant populations are sustained, and I am proud to be a part of a bold research project that will inform conservation efforts in Africa for years to come.

We are experiencing the highest rate of elephant mortality in history. In fact, as many as 20 percent of Africa’s elephants could be killed in the next 10 years if illegal poaching continues at the current rate. Compounding these losses is the rapid encroachment on elephant habitat by mining and logging efforts, along with other human expansion. 

During my time in Africa, I have seen the impacts of poaching and habitat loss on the continent’s elephant population. It’s clear we need an immediate, effective, large-scale approach to conservation; otherwise, we risk elephants disappearing from the continent for good.  Excellent data about elephant populations is needed to inform innovative and effective ideas that can make a difference in saving our elephants. 

Since comprehensive data doesn't exist, we have launched the largest pan-African aerial survey since the 1970s, led by the Botswana-based EWB and including numerous NGO partners and researchers. The census will use rigorous methodology and provide accurate data to allow governments and conservation groups to build informed programs to save elephants. Through high-quality science and data we will conquer the insurmountable and help to change the future of Africa. We’re going to save the elephants.

Paul Allen