Welcome to the Elephant Return on Investment (ROI) Tool

This is an interactive open source tool for assessing how far conservation spending reduces the decline of African elephants. The tool can be used to identify where best to invest grant money and how much to invest to maximise conservation and support African elephants.

What you can do with this tool

There are 3 types of analysis this tool can implement - each analysis is run in the corresponding navigation tabs above:

  1. Optimise across all sites:
    • This analysis assesses the ideal sites to invest in given a fixed annual budget and specified optimisation target
    • There are 5 objectives (scenarios) that can be optimized: 3 objectives focusing on elephant numbers and 2 objectives focusing on populations
  2. Assess single proposal:
    • For any given site within the database, this analysis calculates a) the projected total elephant population and b) the projected number of additional elephants, as a result of the specified level of investment
  3. Assess set of proposals:
    • This analysis allows the use of up-to-date information on grants, sites, funding and elephant population estimates to choose between a set of proposals with a fixed annual budget
    • It is similar to ‘Optimise across all sites’ but instead requires the user to upload a basic dataset of grant information (e.g. location, grant requested, size of site, current elephant population) for a selection of sites for which optimal spending can be identified.
    • The user can also edit the uploaded data within the tool if required, and the user can also add sites by selecting locations on a map and enter the required basic data manually.

What you cannot do with this tool

The outputs and estimates of elephant numbers represent the average return on investment - the ROI app does not consider the details in any conservation funding proposal. Individual actions may increase or reduce effectiveness relative to average return on investment.

This ROI app can be used to guide rather than to decide on conservation interventions.

Additional caveats and notes can be found in the documentation tab.

Help Functions ?

In the sidebar controls on each analysis tab there are blue question mark symbols (?). Clicking on these symbols will show a pop-up screen giving details of what the variable control does. Default values generally should be changed to the required amounts. Further details and guide to use the ROI app can be found in the ‘How to use this tool’ section in the Documentation tab.


These projections of elephant and population numbers are based on the data compiled during Roberto Correa’s PhD work - Full methods and background details can be found in the Documentation tab above. This tool is an output from the project ‘Identifying the Level of Funding Needed to Protect Elephant Populations Across Africa and Other Key Species’ (USFWS Grant Award F19AC00770).

University of York 2023 | contact: colin.beale@york.ac.uk

Optimise across all sites
Download results
Projected elephants:
Extra elephants:
Elephants in stable populations:
Projected stable populations:
Projected populations in favourable conservation state:
Projected elephants in conservation favourable populations:
Assess single proposal
Download results

Projected Elephants

Extra elephants:

$ per extra elephants (ROI):

Projected elephants:
Extra elephants:
Elephants in stable populations:
Projected stable populations:
Projected populations in favourable conservation state:
Projected elephants in conservation favourable populations:

List of sites with elephant populations in the full database

Region Country (ISO) Site name
South ZAF Addo
East RWA Akagera
East KEN Amboseli
West BFA Arly
East ETH Babille
Central CAF Bamingue
Central CMR Bayang
Central CMR Boumba Bek
East TZA Burigi
Central CMR Campo Ma'an
East ETH Chebera
South ZWE Chete
South ZWE Chirisa
South ZWE Chizarira
South BWA Chobe
West CIV Comoe
Central COG Conkouati
Central CMR Dja
South ZWE Doma
Central CAF Dzanga
South NAM Etosha
East ETH Gambella
Central COD Garamba
South MOZ Gile
West LBR Gola
South ZWE Gonarezhou
South MOZ Gorongosa
West MLI Gourma
South SWZ Hlane
South ZAF Hluhluwe-iMfolozi
South ZWE Hwange
Central GAB Ivindo
South ZAM Kafue
South MWI Kasungu
East TZA Katavi
South NAM Khaudum
East UGA Kibale
East UGA Kidepo
South ZAF Kruger
South MOZ Limpopo
South MWI Liwonde
Central CMR Lobeke
Central GAB Lope
South AGO Luengue
East KEN Maasai Mara
South ZAF Madikwe
Central COD Maiko
South MWI Majete
South SWZ Malolotja
Central CAF Manovo
South ZAF Marakele
South MOZ Marromeu
South ZWE Matetsi
South ZWE Matusadona
East KEN Meru
East TZA Mikumi
Central GAB Minkebe
South BWA Moremi
East TZA Moyowosi Kigosi
Central CMR Mt Cameroon
East KEN Mt Elgon
East UGA Murchison Falls
Central GAB Mwange
South MOZ Niassa
East SSD Nimule
South MWI Nkhotakota
Central CMR Nki
South ZAM North Luangwa
Central COG Nouabale
South NAM Nyae
South MWI Nyika
Central COG Odzala
Central COD Okapi
East ETH Omo
West BEN Pendjari
East UGA Queen Elizabeth
South MOZ Quirimbas
East TZA Ruaha
East TZA Rukwa
East TZA Rungwa
West LBR Sapo
South ZWE Save
East TZA Selous
East TZA Serengeti
South ZAM Sioma
South ZAM South luangwa
West CIV Tai
East TZA Tarangire
South ZAF Tembe
East KEN Tsavo East
East KEN Tsavo West
East TZA Ugalla
Central COD Upemba
Central COD Virunga
South MWI Vwaza
West BEN W Benin
West BFA W Burkina
West NER W du Niger
Central CMR Waza
West NGA Yankari
Central TCD Zakouma
South ZAM Zambezi

How to use this tool

Introduction and Documentation

Assess all proposals

Assess single proposal

Assess set of proposals

Output descriptions

Descriptions of the data table output generated by the ROI optimization

Column name Description
Site Site name
Current population Most recent elephant population estimate
Projected population Projected elephant population from the ROI optimization (median)
Projected pop lower CI Lower confidence limit (uncertainty) of projected population (5%)
Projected pop upper CI Upper confidence limit (uncertainty) of projected population (95%)
Projected population without grant Projected elephant population if grant is not available
Population difference Difference between projected elephant population with and without a grant
Carrying capacity Site level elephant population carrying capacity
Current growth rate Current elephant population growth rate at the site
Projected growth rate Projected elephant population growth rate with a grant at the site
Current annual spending Current conservation spending at the site (government and donor)
Optimal.annual.grant Optimal grant identified from the ROI optimization given the input information (total annual grant budget available, number of years, conservation objective, minimum elephant population etc.)
$ per elephant Annual amount of $ per single elephant - the lower the amount the better investment return
ROI category This is a simple guideline traffic light system ((Very high, high, medium, low)) to categorise the return on investment (ROI):
  1. if a site is given a grant and
  2. the amount of $ per elephant.


This list of caveats will be updated - contact rob.critchlow@york.ac.uk if you spot something new or have any queries

Problem - Increasing investment or any additional investment is not changing the number of elephants at a site (especially noticeable in assess single proposal analysis)

Reason - The maximum number of elephants will be restricted by the carrying capacity of a site, if carrying capacity (as stated in the database) has been reached, elephant numbers can’t increase. A good example of this is for Amboseli National Parkwhere the ‘official’ carrying capacity of the site is 229 but the most recent ‘official’ population estimate is 1656.

This also highlights the potential problem of how elephants are counted in areas where they migrate like Amboseli National Park. In such sites, the population estimates are likely to be for the wider ecosystem which can sustain a much larger population, whereas Amboseli National Park on its own is small

ROI app contributors

University of York

Dr. Colin Beale - Reader - colin.beale@york.ac.uk

Dr. Rob Critchlow - PDRA - rob.critchlow@york.ac.uk

University of Cambridge - Conservation Research Institute

Dr. Andy Plumptre - Head Key Biodiversity Areas Secretariat - aplumptre@keybiodiversityareas.org

Prof. Andrew Balmford - Professor of Conservation Science - apb12@cam.ac.uk

Roberto Correa - PhD student - rjc206@cam.ac.uk


Matt Muir - USFWS Biologist - matt_muir@fws.gov