Elephant Database
African Elephant Specialist Group

Continental Totals
Provisional African Elephant Population Estimates: update to 31 Dec 2013

All Years for Africa: 201620132007200219981995

This website contains data from surveys that were conducted on or before December 31, 2013, as well as expert opinion for that time. In the interest of making this data available sooner rather than later, the Data Review Working Group of the African Elephant Specialist Group is continuing to conduct a detailed review of these webpages. Though there may be some minor errors and discrepancies, the Data Review Working Group believes the overall continental, sub-regional, and national summaries are reflective of the submitted data.

(Any comments regarding potential errors can be submitted to afesg@iucn.org. Questions about interpretation are also welcome.)

This update should be viewed in the context of the following key points:

1. Since the African Elephant Status Report 2007 there has been a reduction in the number of ‘Definite’ elephants. This decline appears to be a genuine reduction in a number of populations counted using consistent techniques, particularly in Tanzania, Chad, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

2. Botswana has the largest elephant population of any country in Africa, but recent surveys have provided inconsistent results.

3. Although major declines are believed to have taken place in a number of elephant populations in Central Africa, these declines are not apparent in the database because a number of populations were surveyed for the first time after the African Elephant Status Report 2007 was published, and the additional elephants enumerated in these surveys have compensated for the reductions elsewhere.

4. There has been an increase in the number of elephants recorded in the Definite,’ ‘Probable,’ and ‘Possible’ categories in South Sudan, but this is due to recent survey work and is not indicative of a genuine increase in elephants.

5. Some areas which have not been surveyed recently may have lost elephants since the surveys were carried out. This applies particularly to areas with ‘Speculative’ elephants, which may have been surveyed more than 10 years ago. There are some surveys from five to ten years ago, for example, that are still treated as current (with ‘Definite,’ ‘Probable’ and ‘Possible’ elephants). 6. Elephant populations appear to have increased in South Africa, Namibia and Uganda since the African Elephant Status Report 2007.


This is an update on the status of the African elephant produced under the aegis of the African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC). It is based on data from the African Elephant Database (AED), the official database on the conservation status of the African elephant.  Since 2009, the AfESG has been working on a major shift in the infrastructure of the AED.  The AED is now housed in a global elephant database, the African and Asian Elephant Database (AAED), available through a web interface.  At present, Asian elephant range is available, and the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group is working to integrate population data.  This is an open source project and the code is available for use and modification by other Specialist Groups or the general public.  The new system provides a number of advantages, not least of which is the near immediate publication of survey results as we receive them, rather than waiting for the publication of an updated set of pooled estimates.

There has been no change in the system for categorization of different data types.  As such the elaboration on pages 6-19 of the AESR 2007 is a useful resource in interpreting the current update.  The only change is a slight change in coding for Informed and Other Guesses.  Informed guesses are noted as O (data reliability D) and other guesses are noted as O (data reliability E).


The AfESG is very grateful to all data providers, including AfESG members, range State wildlife agencies, NGOs and individual researchers. The provision of up-to-date data helps to ensure that the most recent available data are included in the database. Particular thanks are due to the Data Review Working Group of the AfESG, Julian Blanc, Colin Craig, Holly Dublin, Chris Thouless, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, John Hart, and Howard Frederick, and reviewers Fiona Maisels and Philippe Bouché. A number of donors and partners have assisted in the development of the AAED, and in the preparation of this update: CITES, CITES MIKE, Solertium, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the European Commission, Tusk Trust,  Save the Elephants, WWF, and DEFRA.

Summary Totals for Africa

Estimates from SurveysGuesses% Known and
Possible Range
Area (km2)
Survey categoryEstimate± 95% CLFromTo
Aerial Total Counts56,8598.0250,959
Individual Registrations2220.0685
Aerial Sample Counts340,27825,27424.2757,052
Ground Sample Counts7,9472,3660.411,235
Reliable Dung Counts11,4732,5022.267,616
Other Dung Counts1640,72266,6282.886,477
Informed Guesses5,21726,67041,01711.8368,543
Other Guesses4,1084,7211.339,165
Degraded Data33,85033,8503.2100,710
Modeled Extrapolation32,37832,3785.2163,629
Totals 2015422,01225,507137,727178,593  
Totals 2006503,38036,546286,628295,085  
Assessed Range58.91,846,073
Unassessed Range41.11,286,165
Total Range1003,132,238

Summary Totals for Africa

Data Category Definite Probable Possible Speculative
Aerial or Ground Total Counts57,081000
Direct Sample Counts and Reliable Dung Counts334,17825,50725,5070
Other Dung Counts1644,8448,4930
Informed Guesses5,217059,04814,347
Other Guesses3,4940034,471
Totals 2013399,98670,35193,04848,818
Totals 2006466,94180,11186,398201,190

Interpretation of Changes in Estimates from Previous Report

 Estimates from SurveysGuessesArea
Cause of Change Estimate ± 95% CL From To% Known and PossibleTotal
Repeat Survey-65,181±29,125-7,963-1,92616.4514,269
New Population+11,363±5,927-156,038-140,7175.9183,508
Different Technique+12,220±3,241-180,769-183,6575.0156,921
Different Area-6,536±13,919-4,884-2,4726.1189,876
New Guess-6,373±4,108-163,236-144,99014.6458,813
Data Degraded-22,580±2,371+21,947+21,4462.165,566

Interpretation of Changes in Estimates from Previous Report

Cause of Change Definite Probable Possible Speculative
Repeat Survey-47,301-22,009-14,614-177
New Population+3,182+24,563+17,945-15,044
Different Technique+3,745+9,067+4,244-27,046
Different Area-2,939+9-7,371-837
New Guess-1,992-26,807+23,289-6,090
Data Degraded-12,610-6,506-11,810+23,791

Interpretation of Changes in Estimates from Previous Report (2007 scaling)

Cause of Change Definite Probable Possible Speculative
Repeat Survey-51,205-17,215-11,259-998
New Population+3,445+19,213+13,825-84,803
Different Technique+4,055+7,092+3,269-152,459
Different Area-3,181+7-5,679-4,718
New Guess-2,156-20,968+17,941-34,329
Data Degraded-13,651-5,089-9,098+134,110

Area of Range Covered by Each Data Category (km²)

Data CategoryKnown RangePossible RangeTotal Range
Aerial or Ground Total Counts235,44316,201251,644
Direct Sample Counts and Reliable Dung Counts723,999111,904835,903
Informed Guesses321,495209,331530,826
Other Dung Counts83,1253,35286,477
Other Guesses112,93223,855136,787
Unassessed Range621,227542,8881,284,722

Elephant Estimates

Estimates from SurveysGuessesRange  
RegionEstimate/Number Seen± 95% CLFromToArea (km²)% Regional% AssessedIQI1PFS2
Central Africa14,6992,56295,110128,285783,08525620.061
Eastern Africa99,75111,43312,09013,048880,64828560.451
Southern Africa297,60322,53226,20532,3591,325,99842580.491
West Africa9,9592,3734,5995,178142,5005670.381

Elephant Estimates

RegionDefiniteProbablePossibleSpeculativeRange Area (km²)% of Continental Range% of Range AssessedIQI1PFS2
Central Africa16,23439,23260,17124,874783,0852562 .242
Eastern Africa88,50312,32415,6747,731880,6552856 .452
Southern Africa278,04622,53230,80221,1031,325,9984258 .501
West Africa7,9002,6262,5894,285142,500567 .413
Totals404,24763,15095,39757,9933,132,23810059 .44

1IQI: Information Quality Index: This index quantifies overall data quality at the regional level based on the precision of estimates and the proportion of assessed elephant range (i.e. range for which estimates are available). The IQI ranges from zero (no reliable information) to one (perfect information).

2PFS: Priority for Future Surveys, ranked from 1 to 5 (highest to lowest). Based on the precision of estimates and the proportion of national range accounted for by the site in question, PFS is a measure of the importance and urgency for future population surveys. All areas of unassessed range have a priority of 1. See Introduction for details on how the PFS is derived.

Note that totals for the Definite, Probable, and Possible categories are derived by pooling the variances of individual estimates, as described at http://www.africanelephantdatabase.org/reliability. As a result, totals do not necessarily match the simple sum of the entries within a given category.

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