The rapid decline of the African elephant in the 1970s and 1980s provoked serious concern about the long-term survival of the species. This concern highlighted the need to monitor and report on the continent-wide status of elephant populations. The African Elephant Database (AED) evolved to meet this need. It is the only database that stores data on two basic variables reflecting the conservation status of African elephants – their numbers (abundance) and distribution (range) and so stores both non-spatial and spatial data. The database is a collaborative effort between governments, conservation agencies and researchers and has been managed and maintained by the AfESG since 1992.
With the African elephant facing increasing pressure from a variety of threats, monitoring elephant range and numbers provides wildlife managers with invaluable data for the effective conservation and management of remaining populations, and decision-makers with information on which to base national and international policies relevant to elephant conservation.
Elephant population data is collected by different organizations, across a variety of habitats and using a variety of different techniques. Survey reports are obtained from wildlife management agencies and other organizations, and non-survey report data are shared in many formats by individuals and organizations with expert knowledge of an area. There are specific challenges associated with these kinds of data, related to their reliability and the availability and timing of new surveys. The AED overcomes this by using a system to accommodate all types of numbers by classifying them according to their type and designating them as estimates and guesses. Preliminary range maps are shared with relevant experts to aid in modifying and revising them.
We are very grateful to all the wildlife authorities, NGOs, and independent researchers, too many to name here, who continue to send us their survey data for incorporation into the AED.
We would also like to acknowledge the generous support we have received for the development and ongoing maintenance of the AED from the African Elephant Fund; African Wildlife Foundation; CITES MIKE; European Commission; Tusk Trust; Safari Club International Foundation; Save The Elephants; United Kingdom Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA); United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International.
The AED is an Open Source software project, built by Solertium. The AED spatial and non-spatial (attribute) data are managed using GIS software and a relational database management system (a PostgreSQL database with a PostGIS extension).