At nearly 1 million hectares in size, it can be hard to locate the elephant in Limpopo National Park. However, this morning, rangers at the Forward Operating Base stop to watch a beautiful tusker as it wanders into camp looking for a drink. Obviously thirsty, the elephant helps itself to the camp water from the tank while the rangers look on. This is a perfect example of humans and wildlife living alongside, both accommodating the other and sharing resources. It is a glimpse into the future success of transboundary conservation areas.
They say elephants have long memories and it is true. Elephants form incredibly tight family bonds so those who have lived through conflict with humans remember and pass the fear of humans down through generations. It can take years before this fear is reduced. So, seeing this elephant here, looking so relaxed despite the fact that Sean, Peace Parks’ Counter-Poaching Unit Manager, is only metres away, is a great sign of just how safe it feels in the presence of humans.
But human wildlife-conflict cannot always be avoided, especially when elephant roam to find food or to follow their ancient migration routes. A key part of the Peace Parks Foundation’s work is to develop wildlife corridors for animals such as elephant, in order to allow them to move freely across country and across man-made borders, so that they can live safely in their family herds and in harmony with humans. These corridors lie within transfrontier conservation areas – vast protected areas that transcend country borders.
A key objective of the work of Peace Parks is to engage in restoration and development projects that will ensure connectivity between key wildlife areas, and where necessary, join fragmented wildlife habitats. The goal is to safeguard an interconnected mosaic of protected areas – reinstating transboundary movement corridors for migratory wildlife such as elephants, zebra and various carnivore species that require large ecosystems to thrive.
Elephant are vitally important in the ecosystem. They transport hundreds of tree seeds via their dung when they migrate which improves reforestation and vegetation efforts. They also open the landscape which allows access to softer grasses for grazers and browsers. By pushing down trees they make the leaves available to other animals. These are just a few of the incredible benefits elephant can bring to a landscape.
A source of fascination to humans, elephants are key to the rejuvenation of this area, with nature tourism able to provide a sustainable future for the region.