The Great Elephant Census reports massive loss of African savannah elephants
Researchers have announced the results of the $7 million, three-year Great Elephant Census, the first-ever pan-African survey of savanna elephants using standardized data collection and validation methods. Managed by Elephants Without Borders (EWB) the immense project's report confirms substantial declines in elephant numbers over just the last decade. The researchers report that the current rate of species decline is 8 percent per year, primarily due to poaching.
The GEC team used the most accurate, up-to-date counting and statistical methods to analyze data, accurately determining the number and distribution of the great majority of African savanna elephants and this now provides a baseline on a continental scale for future surveys and trend analyses, that wildlife ecologists will be able to use to coordinate conservation efforts.
|These are elephants in Chobe National Park, Northern Botswana |
[Credit: Kelly Landen]
The first GEC flights started in February 2014. The GEC teams flew a total of 294,517 km of transect lines to sample 218,238 square km or 24 percent of the total ecosystem area being studied. This involved 9,700 hours (406 days) in the air by 81 airplanes and 286 crew. The census has completed 18 country surveys with two countries still to be completed, organizers say. South Sudan and the Central African Republic are anticipated to be flown by the end of 2016 depending on safety conditions and data reliability.
Dr Michael Chase, the Principle Investigator on the project, said that "the results of the GEC show the necessity of action to end the African elephants' downward trajectory by preventing poaching and protecting habitat."
Source: PeerJ [August 31, 2016]