Results of the two-year, $8-million Great Elephant Census (GEC) of African savannah elephants led by Elephants Without Borders (EWB) were released on September 2, 2016 at an international wildlife conference in Hawaii, confirming massive 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. Investigators led by EWB director Mike Chase say the Pan-African survey shows that for savannah elephant populations in 15 GEC countries for which repeat counts were available, populations declined by 30 percent, or 144,000 animals, between 2007 and 2014. Billionaire philanthropist Paul G. Allen and his sister Jody Allen are the primary funders of the survey. Chase and colleagues presented their results at the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu on September 2, 2016, and the findings were published on August 31, 2016, in the peer-reviewed, open access journal PeerJ. The article is titled “Continent-Wide Survey Reveals Massive Decline in African Savannah Elephants.” Wildlife ecologist Curt Griffin, Ph.D., at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with postdoctoral researcher Scott Schlossberg, Ph.D., are members of a research team that compiled the data, conducted statistical analyses, and applied new data analysis techniques to help Chase and EWB estimate the abundance and geographic distribution of savannah elephants across Africa, using the most accurate, up-to-date statistical methods to analyze the survey data. Results provide a baseline that governments and wildlife conservation organizations can use to coordinate conservation efforts. Dr. Chase was Dr. Griffin's graduate student at UMass Amherst when Chase founded the Botswana-based EWB in 2007. The GEC is the first continent-wide aerial survey of African elephants.
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