Mapping Landscape Resistance to Identify Corridors and Barriers for Elephant Movement in Southern Africa

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Abstract

One of Africa's greatest conservation successes is the recovery of elephant (Loxodonta africana) populations within protected areas (e.g. Aleper and Moe 2006), such as those in northern Botswana. This recovery poses several challenges, however. First, habitat within protected areas is becoming degraded from high intensity elephant browsing. Second, the increasing elephant and human populations in the region have led to large increases in human—elephant conflict along the periphery of protected areas (Sitati et al. 2005; Lee and Graham 2006). Management options include facilitating natural dispersal, active relocation, and culling. Relocation is prohibitively expensive as a population-level solution given the high per capita cost. Culling is politically unpopular given Botswana's booming wildlife tourist industry. Simultaneously, large areas of the neighboring countries of Namibia, Zambia and Angola have low elephant densities. Some of these governments desire to increase elephant populations within their protected areas to promote the growth of wildlife tourism. Thus, facilitated dispersal of elephants from high density areas of northern Botswana to protected areas in other countries with low elephant densities is an attractive potential solution.