How many elephants are there in Africa? We don't know for sure. But, in the way that murder is always a more reliable statistic because there's a body to count, we can arrive at the number poached every year. It's shocking: about 40,000. That's one every 15 minutes. Elephants are now being killed faster than they can breed.
To plan elephant protection, you first have to know how many are alive. This was a problem Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders was wrestling with when he met Dave Stewart, who works with Microsoft philanthropist Paul Allen and his sister Jody.
"What would it take," Dave asked, "to move the needle on conservation in Africa?"
"A pan-African survey of elephants," was Mike's reply.
He had done the sums. It would require three fixed-wing planes and two helicopters doing tight transects in 13 elephant-range countries during the 2014 dry season. The aim would be to find where elephants are on the continent, where they are increasing or declining and what threats they face. The cost would be around $8 million.
Dave took the idea to Paul Allen and within a week Mike had his reply: "Do it."