A Phased Approach to Increase Human Tolerance in Elephant Corridors to promote ecosystem connectivity

Thorge Heuer
Publicado: 08 Agosto 2023
Última edición: 11 Octubre 2023
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Pathfinding elephants are moving through human-dominated landscapes, often across international boundaries. By doing so, they play a vital role in connecting Protected Areas (PAs) but also encounter Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) that threatens lives and livelihoods. Our solution proposes a long-term strategy to conserve elephant corridors whilst incorporating the socio-economic needs of the people that share the landscape with them. GPS tracking of elephants across two transfrontier conservation areas flags where linking corridors exist and thus where to focus resources. We use innovative cafeteria-style experiments to understand which elephant-unpalatable plants would offer lucrative alternative income streams to farmers living in those HEC hotspots. Lastly, we combine food security and people’s safety by deploying Rapid Response Units and soft barriers to protect subsistence crops. This phased strategy enables the protection of bioregions to achieve biodiversity objectives at landscape scale.


África Oriente y África del Sur
Scale of implementation
Campos de cultivo
Ecosistemas de pastizales
Ecosistemas marinos y costeros
Pastizales templados, sabana, matorral
Acceso y participación en los beneficios
Actores locales
Adaptación al cambio climático
Caza furtiva y delitos ambientales
Ciencia y investigación
Conectividad / conservación transfronteriza
Conocimientos tradicionales
Diversidad genetica
Especies y la extinción
Financiación sostenible
Fragmentación del hábitat y degradación
Gestión de tierras
Gestión y planificación de áreas protegidas y conservadas
Gobernanza de las áreas protegidas y conservadas
Institucionalización de la biodiversidad
Medios de vida sostenibles
Mitigación del cambio climático
Poblaciones indígenas
Prevención de erosión
Salud y bienestar humano
Seguridad alimentaria
Servicios ecosistémicos
Degradación de tierras y bosques
Pérdida de la biodiversidad
Pérdida de ecosistemas
Cacería furtiva
Falta de acceso a financiación a largo plazo
Falta de oportunidades de ingresos alternativos
Extracción de recursos físicos
Cambios en el contexto socio-cultural
Falta de seguridad alimentaria
Falta de infraestructura
Falta de capacidad técnica
Deficiente gobernanza y participación
Desempleo / pobreza
Sustainable development goals
ODS 1 - Fin de la pobreza
ODS 2 - Hambre cero
ODS 3 - Salud y bienestar
ODS 5 - Igualidad de género
ODS 6 - Agua limpia y saneamiento
ODS 8 - Trabajo decente y crecimiento económico
ODS 9 - Industria, innovacióne e infraestructura
ODS 10- Reducción de las desigualidades
ODS 12 - Producción y consumo responsables
ODS 13 - Acción por el clima
ODS 15 - Vida de ecosistemas terrestres
ODS 16 - Paz, justicia e instituciones sólidas
ODS 17 - Alianzas para lograr los objetivos
Aichi targets
Meta 1: Aumento de la sensibilization sobre la biodiversidad
Meta 2: Valores de biodiversidad integrados
Meta 3: Incentivos reformados
Meta 4: Producción y consumo sostenibles
Meta 5: Pérdida de hábitat reducida a la mitad o reducida
Meta 7: Agricultura, acuicultura y silvicultura
Meta 10: Ecosistemas vulnerables al cambio
Meta 11: Áreas protegidas y conservadas
Meta 12: Reducir el riesgo de extinción
Meta 13: Protección de la diversidad genética
Meta 14: Los servicios ecosistemicos
Meta 15: Restauración de ecosistemas y resiliencia
Meta 16: Acceso y distribución de los beneficios de los recursos genéticos
Meta 17: Estrategias y planes de acción para la biodiversidad
Meta 18: Conocimiento tradicional
Meta 19: Intercambio de información y conocimiento
Meta 20: Movilización de recursos de todas las fuentes
Marco de Sendai
Meta 3: Reducir las pérdidas económicas directas por desastre en relación al PIB para 2030
Meta 6: Incrementar la cooperación hacia países en desarrollo a través de apoyo adecuado y sustentable a fin de complementar sus acciones


Boane, Maputo Province, Mozambique


Human-Elephant Conflict is threatening the immediate physical safety of both elephants and humans, with fatalities occurring on either side. In addition, crop-raiding threatens livelihoods of subsistence farming communities living along wildlife corridors. If left unaddressed, important corridors linking fragmentised Protected Areas will be closed off, as elephants will avoid using corridors based on learnt fear or physical barriers (electric fences). This will result in declining elephant populations and have disastrous effects on all wildlife migrations between increasingly isolated protected areas. The IUCN’s Guidelines outline the importance of connected ecosystems to enable essential ecological functions such as migration, hydrology, nutrient cycling, pollination, seed dispersal, food security, climate resilience and disease resistance. The subsequent biodiversity loss would negate all economic advancements made in rural communities and accelerate negative impacts from climate change.


Rural communities living within and along wildlife corridors

Elephant & wildlife populations using wildlife corridors to migrate between Protected Areas

Protected Areas relying on ecosystem and economical (tourism) services from migrating wildlife

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

Protecting African elephants and their habitat in bioregions requires a multidimensional and integrated approach of community engagement, knowledge creation and practical conservation action. This includes mapping elephant movements outside of protected areas to understand landscape connectivity, concentration of mitigation efforts in HEC hotspots, and experiments to evaluate alternative crops for communities affected by HEC.

A combination of hard barriers (electric fences) around small subsistence crop fields that do not prohibit the movement of elephants, with income-generating soft barriers (unpalatable crops with a market value, pollinated by beehive fences), can help mitigate conflicts over the long term; whilst a reactive Rapid Response Unit can ensure immediate safety in high-conflict areas. In crop-raiding hotspots identified through tracking data and reported information via RRUs, farmers can be encouraged to only farm with viable unpalatable crops with high market values and yields. Combining income-generating soft barriers, such as planting high-value crops with a mutually reinforcing relationship of pollination for beehive fences, promotes biodiversity outcomes and supports rural economies in and around wildlife corridor regions.


Short term: Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) mitigation strategies resulting in reduced HEC:

  • Empowering community members to confidently and safely react to crop-raiding incidents
  • Decreased hostility amongst communities towards elephants, reducing the number of elephants “destroyed” by authorities or other
  • Decreased human and elephant fatalities from HEC
  • Safeguarding of livelihoods & food-security


Long term: increased movement of elephants between Protected Areas (PAs), promoting ecosystem connectivity:

  • Facilitating transfer of genetic traits between isolated PAs
  • Relief of pressure on biodiversity within isolated habitats, allowing seasonal habitat recovery.
  • Identifying suitable wildlife corridors, to be used for land-use planning, decreased deforestation rates, and expansion of PA coverage
  • Improving the socio-economic circumstances of communities living within/near the corridor, by decreasing dependence on dwindling natural resources:
    • Introducing income-generating alternative crops for income diversification
    • Mutually reinforcing alternative income streams from honey production and alternative crop cultivation
    • Work towards tourism strategies aimed at increasing the financial security in favour of conservation efforts
    • Promote the upskilling women into social role models
    • Community-building: watchtowers as centres for knowledge transfer of mitigation methods & alternative farming and income generation


Mozambique Wildlife Alliance

Mr. Mkwakwa represents the chief of a village situated in the Namaacha valley in southern Mozambique. He has been desperate to protect his community from repetitive elephant crop raiding, especially during the dry season. He has tried to install some solar lights on high poles in the hope that this will keep the elephants at bay. He has also tired to build natural green walls with Comniphora species on the border of the crops. None of his efforts have succeeded to the degree that he wanted to offer his community protection. As part of the Elephants Alive’ mitigation strategy we stayed in a nearby village to facilitate a training workshop on various soft barrier methods to protect crops. Representatives from South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique and Kenya all came to share their expertise in terms of the erection of beehive fences, metal strip fences, chilli rag fences and the manufacturing of smelly elephant repellent and chilli bricks. The Chief and his wife were incredibly grateful that so many countries have pitched in to help try to solve their problems. Both Mr. Mkwakwa and his wife worked relentlessly with the teams to show both the team and his community how appreciative they all were of the assistance and guidance. He explained to us how hard things have been for them and how the elephants seem to always know when it is the right time to crop raid, just before they are ready to harvest. We explained to them how the honey will help pollinate their crops and that they can also get an additional income from the honey when it is ready for harvesting during the summer months. We mentioned that the bees function as security agents to his fields as elephants are scared of bees. We also mentioned that bees are in need of enough water. The Chief immediately set out to build a wonderful bee watering station. We explained that Elephants Alive would come back regularly to also train the community on growing plants that elephants avoid as yet another barrier to protect crops. Mr. Mkwakwa and his wife were beaming with gratitude and rushed to give us parting gifts of all that they had, shweshwe cloths and cassava roots. New friendships were formed along the journey to protect people’s safety and assets and the elephants were strangely at the centre of these bridges that were being formed between communities and people working across borders and following in the footsteps of elephants.

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Other contributors

Elephants Alive
Mozambique Wildlife Alliance