Elephant Threats and Solutions

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There are four fundamental threats that are causing an increase in human-elephant conflict. Understanding and then avoiding these threats could lead to better coexistence in the future.

Habitat loss - Livestock increase and overgrazing

Elephants need vast landscapes and food resources in order to survive. Pressure from increasing, often illegal, livestock grazing in elephant rangeland impacts the amount of grazing food available for elephants.

Without grass, elephants will turn to trees to browse for food. Extensive tree foraging will lead to the conversion of important bush habitats to savannah that changes the land for other animal species.

Reduced tree cover results in reduced rainfall.

Dogs brought in to herd cattle can also bring diseases and disturbance.

This disruption to their home can cause elephants to move outside protected areas to search for food, putting their lives at risk as they start to overlap with people.

Negative human clashes with elephants inside protected areas can cause elephants to be more aggressive towards people.

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Habitat fragmentation and urbanization

National park

Smaller national parks and reserves may not be enough to sustain large populations of elephants because of how much food they need to survive, which is why they would naturally seek resources outside protected areas.

With an increasing human population comes infrastructure development

Roads, railways, pipelines, fences and human settlements can all form barriers to wildlife movements, fragmenting habitats into ever smaller areas.

Human settlements built on or too close to important elephant corridors force elephants to look for alternate routes to cross rangelands.

Forest elephants are particularly at risk of habitat loss as forests are being cleared to provide space for roads, housing, agriculture and infrastructure.

Without open corridors to link these islands of habitat, herds can have trouble reaching food and water resources at certain times of the year.

Read more on Elephant threats.

Farms and urban settlements that disturb this natural movement can provide a rich source of food that attracts elephants.

A bull wandering outside Archer’s Post town in Samburu, Kenya © Jane Wynyard/Save the Elephants
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Read more on: Tsavo SGR monitoring report by Save the Elephants.

Human-elephant conflict

Factors such as poaching, habitat destruction, noise pollution, and previous negative encounters with humans can impact their behaviour and make elephants more prone to aggression toward humans.

Experiencing the death of a family member caused by human activities can also increase aggressiveness in elephants.

Poaching and Ivory Trade - impact on coexistence

Demand for ivory results in the illegal killing of elephants for their teeth (known as tusks).

Tusks can only be removed by killing the elephant as a long tooth root is embedded from the skull deep into the center of each tusk.

Unlike rhino horns, elephant tusks do not regrow if broken or if the ends are somehow cut off.

It is crucial to use the non-lethal mitigation methods highlighted in this Toolbox manual to protect farms and

Bull elephants in Lake Jipe (Kenya) cross through human settlements from the park daily to reach the lake © Zacharia Mutinda Threat to Elephants, Elephant Voices.
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Toolbox Manual, Save the Elephants.

Often the largest / oldest bull elephants with the biggest tusks targeted by ivory poachers which can have devastating impacts on family structure and bull dynamics.

The removal of older female elephants by poachers can mean a loss of knowledge from her family on where the safest routes are between protected areas and around human settlements.

Younger females may get confused and do not have as much experience of how to navigate the landscape which can lead to increasing conflicts

Older bull elephants help suppress musth in younger bulls, so poaching older bulls can trigger erratic and aggressive behaviour in younger bull elephants which is highly dangerous if those bulls are crop raiders.


The root cause of most conflict is not too many elephants, but our increasing human populations and our unsustainable consumption of natural resources. We must address the issue of human population growth as well as limit our individual impact on the planet’s resources if we are to conserve elephants and protect our invaluable biodiversity.

Avoid taking livestock to graze inside formally protected areas to ensure elephants have a year-round resource of food away from human settlements.

Avoid cutting trees - deforestation leads to unpredictable and prolonged drought periods and can lead to soil erosion

Start planting trees and find alternative sources of firewood and building materials for your family to use.

Credit: Gobush, K. S., & Wasser, S. K. (2009). Behavioural correlates of low relatednessin African elephant core groups of a poached population. Animal Behaviour, 78(5), 1079–1086. Credit: Ihwagi, F., Skidmore, A., Bastille-Rousseau, G., Toxopeus, A., & Douglas- Hamilton, I. (2019). Poaching lowers elephant path tortuosity: implications for conservation. Journal of Wildlife Management, 83(5), 1022–1031.

Avoid building homes and farming on corridors and critical dispersal areas.

Use effective farm and boundary protection methods to prevent crop raids from elephants and to help guide elephants

Install signs and indicators (e.g. bollards) to raise awareness of elephant corridors.

Ensure no-one builds on these important routes to avoid causing conflict.

“Promoting co-existence requires understanding the needs and perspectives of both people and elephants and willingness among us human beings to share diminishing natural resources for the benefit of other species and ourselves” – Elephant Voices.

Don’t buy ivory - buying ivory stimulates the trade and this motivates people to poach elephants, disrupting the concept of harmonious coexistence between elephants and people.

Credits and Disclaimer:

We have collected the information above from multiple sources that are sourced throughout the document. The main contributors are Elephant Voices and Save the Elephants. This manual is not extensive. To learn and explore more on Elephant Threats & Solutions, see References. Some of the original information used has been simplified for easy understanding.Save the Elephants advises caution with all the information collected and presented in this toolbox. Further research may be required before each site-specific implementation.

* Save the Elephants is not liable for any costs, damages or injuries incurred by the use of these methods or information.

Wildlife and livestock corridor marker in Northern Kenya © Jane Wynyard/Save the Elephants
Produced by Save the Elephants www.savetheelephants.org Made in
Illustrations by Nicola Heath

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