Today is World Elephant Day and we can think of no one better to talk to other than Dr Katharina von Dürkheim, who has been studying Africa’s gentle giants for over a decade. Currently heading up a postgraduate research programme called Wildlife Free to Roam at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, Dr von Dürkheim is also collaborating with Peace Parks Foundation on identifying and securing wildlife corridors in transfrontier conservation areas.

Today, she is chatting to Peace Parks TV about how elephants utilise the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area landscape and the ways in which Peace Parks is helping to re-establish these important wildlife corridors.

The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area is the largest terrestrial transboundary protected area in the world and as its name suggests, is situated in the Kavango and Zambezi river basins where the borders of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet. This protected area is home to around 220 000 elephants – half of the African elephant population – with their movements being widespread throughout the area as they wander in search of mating opportunities, food and water. Their movements are also determined by rainfall, fire, human disturbance and the density of other elephants in the area.

In many areas throughout Africa, humans and elephants compete for the same resources such as space and water, and in order for Peace Parks to come up with suitable interventions that will help mitigate human-elephant conflict hotspots, it is imperative to first understand how these large mammals are using the landscape.

This is being done by deploying satellite collars on elephants and having researchers on the ground to help identify core focal areas. From the information gathered, we can start to understand which areas are important for the elephants and other wildlife. It also allows us to understand how man-made barriers like fences and infrastructure impact elephant movement.

Dr von Dürkheim points out that being able to identify human-elephant conflict hotspots will also allow Peace Parks Foundation to determine which communities within the conservation area are most at risk, and to come up with suitable solutions to address this. Protecting and securing important wildlife corridors that are used by many different animals will not only help alleviate human-wildlife conflict, but can help to establish a wildlife economy which will protect not only the animals, but support the local people too.

We would like to thank Dr von Dürkheim for taking time to share some valuable and fascinating elephant insights and we hope that you learned a thing or two about these majestic creatures and why protecting them is important. On behalf of Peace Parks Foundation, we wish you all a happy World Elephant Day!