Microsoft billionaire to fund Pan African elephant survey

One of the founders of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has expressed his grave concern for the fate of Africa's elephants by adding his financial weight to their protection. His family trust will fund an Africa-wide survey to establish how many elephants remain.

This follows on an agreement by the Clinton Foundation to provide millions of dollars for anti-poaching programmes in Africa and President Obama's decision to have the US stockpile of illegal ivory crushed so it cannot be reused.

The Pan-African Survey will be coordinated by Elephants Without Borders (EWB), which is based in Botswana. It will require three fixed-wing planes 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, where they're increasing or declining and what threats they face. The cost will be around $8-million.

Their aim is to put together a crisis plan and a set of targets to curb poaching and to tackle corrupt networks and trafficking operations. It will also assess and seek to rectify the economic damage to communities from destabilization caused by the arms-for-ivory trade.

Elephants once roamed across 46 African countries, but are now limited to 35. In 20 of those, populations number less than 1 000. Their range area has been reduced to 15 per cent of Africa’s total surface. This decline has been caused by habitat encroachment, increased human population densities, agricultural development, deforestation and infrastructure development as well as poaching.