Paul Allen Takes on African Poachers

Paul Allen, former Microsoft wiz and boyhood friend to Bill Gates, has been a major philanthropist since the 1990s. In the past his spending has focused on brain research, health, education, and science (see IP’s profile). Recently, though, Allen has become interested in wildlife and the environment. In 2013, the Paul G. Allen Foundation pledged to help African elephants, and started looking into grantmaking for ocean conservation. Although the foundation has been silent on its ultimate goals, signs look positive for serious funding in these areas. 

Last year, Allen's foundation pledged $8 million to Elephants Without Borders to perform aerial surveys of current elephant populations throughout 13 African countries. The funds will provide for three fixed-wing airplanes and two helicopters, with the hope that more information on elephant populations can help save these magnificent beasts from poachers. The foundation also gave a $1 million grant last year to the Jane Goodall Institute for Great Ape conservation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here, too, funds will  be used for a population survey to fight poachers—this time to protect a rare gorilla species.

Despite these forays, the Paul G. Allen Foundation has still not laid out any long-term goals for African wildlife funding. It has, however, announced a new area of support within its Science and Technology Program. The foundation is currently developing an ocean-focused program to preserve marine resources and protect marine life. The foundation hasn’t spent much—yet.

In 2013, the foundation held the first Paul G. Allen Ocean Challenge looking for solutions to help mitigate ocean acidification. Coral reef scientists interested in selectively breeding corals to help them withstand increasingly acidic waters were the $10,000 recipients. Aside from genetics for coral, it is still too soon to say where the foundation will be putting its money. But looking at Allen’s tendencies and past spending it would probably be a safe bet to say cutting edge technical solutions will do well with this new sub-program.