The latest data shows that a quarter of a century of conservation efforts have contributed to stabilising African elephant populations in connected protected areas from Tanzania southwards.
“We need to protect elephants, but we also need to connect them,” explains Stuart Pimm, professor at Duke University. “We have fragmented the world and we need to stitch it back together again. Conservation has halted the decline of elephants in southern Africa over the last 25 years.”
The research used 713 population surveys from 103 protected areas from Tanzania southwards, allowing the team to calculate the rate of growth or decline from 1995 to 2020, covering more than 290,000 savannah elephants or 70% of the 415,000 in total in Africa. The population has grown at 0.16% yearly for the last 25 years. The latest analysis – also the most comprehensive one to date – of growth rate in the southern heartlands provides robust data, showing that protected areas that are connected are better than isolated “fortress” parks at maintaining stable populations because they allow elephants to migrate back and forth between regions as they did in the past. “It is about trying to restore a natural dynamic, and natural dynamics can be brutal.”