An accurate count of the continent's elephant population is a vital first step in managing conservation efforts, identifying poaching hotspots, guiding law enforcement interventions, and assessing the impact of threats. To that end, the Great Elephant Census, the largest pan-Africa aerial survey since the 1970s, will provide data about the numbers and distribution of elephants in Africa, forming an essential baseline for ongoing conservation efforts. In year one, the EWB team will survey the elephant population as well as other large herbivores in at least thirteen countries; in year two, researchers will analyze the data. Preliminary survey results are expected in mid-2015 and will be shared with academics, NGOs, and African governments.
NGOs participating in the effort include the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group, the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the African Parks Network, and Save the Elephants.
"Over the past few years, I have documented with regret the slow retreat of elephants from habitats they were rapidly repopulating," said Elephants Without Borders director and founder Mike Chase. "The threat of local extinction feels very real. In October 2013, Elephants Without Borders flew a survey over a park where we had previously counted more than two thousand elephants. We counted just thirty-three live elephants and fifty-five elephant carcasses. That is why this research is so important."