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Elephant Conservation

Elephant Conservation

Photo courtesy of Tim Fullman

Peace Parks or Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) link the natural wonders of Africa across international borders - jointly managing and promoting the conservation and free movement of wildlife across international boundaries. The Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) TFCA is situated where the borders of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe converge. Officially proclaimed in 2011 at nearly 170,000 square miles, (roughly the size of Sweden) it is the largest conservation area in the world. When complete, it will include 36 national parks, game reserves, community conservancies and game management areasand hold the largest contiguous population of African elephants in the world. The key objective of the KAZA TFCA is to join fragmented wildlife habitats to form an interconnected mosaic of protected areas and transboundary wildlife corridors.One of the primary components of the KAZA TFCA is the Elephant Corridor. This innovative project will link the Chobe National Park in Botswana to the Kafue National Park in Zambia, creating the world's largest free roaming elephant zone for more than 100,000 Elephants. The project is being developed within the Simalaha Community Conservancy, ensuring that the corridor will benefit both wildlife and local communities. An important element of the KAZA TFCA will be the development of tourism to benefit local communities.

Elephant herds In the Tarangire National Park of northeastern Tanzania move freely in and out of the park. Research, ongoing there since 1993, has produced a vast amount of data on the Tarangire elephant population. With area elephant and human populations growing, human-elephant conflicts have become the primary threat to elephant survival. The Tarangire elephants are also under increasing threat from ivory poaching and loss of critical habitat outside the National Park. The Tarangire Elephant Project (TEP) works to protect migration corridors and critical elephant areas outside the National Park. Working with local villages and landowners, more than 60,000 acres of land has been protected in a primary elephant dispersal area through community conservation easements. Wildlife monitoring scouts and anti-poaching teams serve as deterrents to poachers and alert the National Park anti-poaching units to illegal activity. The TEP is expanding programs by implementing a Payment for Ecosystem Services program and expanding the network of village game scouts.

In many situations in Africa, elephant and human populations live in close proximity, setting the stagefor potential conflict over limited resources.Namibia is one of the only countries in the world that has a growing elephant population and this can often cause problems for rural people. Elephant Human Relations Aid(EHRA) works directly with local communities to help alleviate the burden of living with elephants in the desert. Because elephants and other wildlife roam freely around large parts of the country, invariably in the search for water, people living in the areas are faced with elephant damage to water structures and competition for water they pump for their livestock. EHRA helps protect vulnerable water structures, tracks and monitors elephant herds in the area, and assists with addressing human- elephant conflicts. EHRA also conducts a variety of community and student education projects, supports infrastructure and technology development in local schools and also manages an active volunteer program.

Southern Africa is home to the world's largest population of African elephants. While this natural treasure serves as the basis for a booming tourism industry, generating jobs and revenue for local communities, the more than 200,000 elephants are also a source of human-wildlife conflict. Preliminary research suggests that the high density of elephants in some areas is also affecting other large mammals, potentially threatening the area's ecological integrity. This research project focusing on elephant ecology in Southern Africa is investigating the impact of increasing densities of elephants on both habitats and species diversity. A better understanding of the influence of elephants on other species will enable more effective management decisions. This is critical in an area where biodiversity conservation is essential for economic growth and local livelihoods. As part of a related program, the University of Florida Center for African Studies is developing an interdisciplinary and multi-partner project aimed at supporting the development of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA). Findings from this study and other work will provide important ecological information to the KAZA TFCA project including data on land-use and land-cover changes and community development around protected areas.

The Zoo & Zoo Society also promote elephant conservation through support of the International Elephant Foundation.

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