Paul Allen, An Homage to a Champion of Elephants.
As the producer of The Elephant Whisperer, a play in development with Handspring Puppet Co of South Africa, I think and breathe elephants, elephants, elephants.
That is why I think attention must be paid today, to the death of Paul Allen, yes, co-founder of Microsoft, yes, owner of an NBA and NFL team, but perhaps most important of all, a champion of elephants.
Recognizing that to protect these animals, it was first necessary to learn how many remain and where. In 2014, with visionary zeal, and using resources and technology perhaps only he could bring together, Paul Allen set out to count Africa’s elephants.
The Great Elephant Census (GEC) was an extraordinary collaboration across borders and cultures.
The final results from the Great Elephant Census, announced in April 2016, show 352,271 African savanna elephants in 18 countries. These data were used in policy and outreach measures to establish better protection of these threatened and magnificent creatures.
But the remarkable Great Elephant Census was not Paul Allen’s only effort for these special giants.
Together, with his sister, Jody Allen, he also established Elephants Without Borders (EWB) as a case study protecting elephants and biodiversity in Botswana.
Today, Botswana has the largest elephant population remaining on the African continent, and EWB, supported by the Paul Allen Foundation, is working hard to keep it that way.
He also brought technology to Ivory DNA analysis, to help increase law enforcement and disrupt the organized transnational and terrorist crime networks that drive the poaching crisis.
Through Vulcan Productions, he enlisted art to the service of the elephants with two films: Naledi – A Baby Elephant’s Tale and The Ivory Game.
As you may know, elephants have such loving and close social groups that they become extremely upset when one of their own dies. Of all animal grieving and funeral rituals, none is as well documented as the elephant’s.
In that tradition, we pledge to stay with and ‘circle’ Paul Allen, if only in our thoughts, for many days, months and years to come, as an expression of gratitude and homage to a kind and wise man, who cared for elephants.
October 16, 2018