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Of significance in the KAZA TFCA is the movement of the African elephant, a species of considerable economic and ecological importance to the region.
The KAZA TFCA has the largest contiguous population of elephants on the continent, with northern Botswana alone having in excess of 150,000 elephants growing at 5% per year.
There are an additional 50,000 in north-western Zimbabwe and 16,000 in north-eastern Namibia.
Political boundaries, rapidly growing human populations, their ensuing demands on the land resource, man-made physical barriers, civil strife and associated land transformation have blocked century old migration routes to access food and water and contributed to high elephant concentrations.
This has resulted in a complex series of effects on the natural environment, such as vegetation damage, which consequently affects other species; and conflict with human populations living within the elephant range.
Solutions to the elephant management challenges are usually few with no one method being proven entirely effective. Reduction of elephant numbers through culling is based on the theory of ecosystem carrying capacity but is highly contested both at the moral, theoretical and practical level. The notion of extending the elephant range through corridors linking fragmented elephant habitats is one alternative that has become increasingly appealing to conservationists.
As elephant populations become increasingly constrained so the need for ‘safe corridors’ between protected areas becomes even more important. There are considerable opportunities for elephants from Botswana to move north into Zambia and Angola through the Caprivi region and securing such migration corridors has the potential to reduce to some extent the environmental and social pressures of their abundance in Botswana and the Caprivi Region.
Recent research has shown that the elephants of northern Botswana are part of a large contiguous elephant population with movement patterns through western Zimbabwe, the Caprivi Region of Namibia, southeast Angola and southwest Zambia.Successful management of the KAZA TFCA’s elephant population requires the cooperation and collaboration of countries that share this elephant population including standardizing survey methodologies.
Human Elephant Conflict: One of the greatest challenges facing any conservation endeavour is the mitigation of conflict between humans and wildlife.
Human Elephant Conflict is of particular concern as the mere size of the pachyderm and the nature of their feeding requirements markedly increases the scale of damage
incurred by local communities, whether in the form of crop depredation or damage to property. Given the often marginal level of livelihood security of these communities,
such damage has significant negative impacts.
The establishment of TFCAs is in part hoped to open up the area of dispersal available to large migratory species such as the elephant, which should relieve the population pressure around human habitats, while simultaneously enabling best practises to be easily shared across international boundaries in conflict mitigation.
More harmonised approaches to elephant management across international boundaries should also prevent a situation where elephants are “forced” to move or behave in a particular manner. A hypothetical example of this includes management techniques that cause great stress within elephant herds, with the result of increasing aggressive behaviour and movement away from certain protected areas at the expense of other areas.