Habitat Destruction

Habitat loss and fragmentation has become the biggest threat, along with poaching, to the continuing survival of the African elephant. The main cause of the loss of the natural forest is pressure from human population growth.

Habitat loss

Elephants are increasingly being crowded out of their habitats. Humans are encroaching these lands for farming and infrastructural development, which leaves elephants with small patches of disconnected land.

Of the additional 2.4 billion people projected to be added to the global population between now and 2050, 1.3 billion will be added in Africa.
Africa’s human population is surging and pushing ever more into elephant rangelands. When farms are established where elephants are used to roaming they become a target for crop-raiding by hungry elephants. A year’s crop can be wiped out in a single night, creating understandable resentment. Both farmers and elephants can be wounded or killed in the conflict that ensues. Pressure from livestock grazing in elephant rangeland is also mounting, impacting the amount of food available for elephants and increasing the chances of herders being attacked by nervous elephants.

Habitat Fragmentation

With an increasing human population comes infrastructure development. Roads, railways, piplelines and human settlements can all form barriers to wildlife movements, fragmenting habitats into ever smaller areas. Without corridors to link these islands of habitat, herds can have trouble reaching food and water at certain times of year. They may also be separated from other elephant groups, decreasing their breeding opportunities. This is not healthy for the genetic diversity of the population.

Overgrazing

When grazing goes unchecked, it can quickly eliminate grass in an area. This means less food for both livestock and wildlife, including elephants, and leads to soil erosion that impacts the growth of grass in the future. It is important to identify and allocate grazing land for livestock away from wildlife areas, unless tight controls can be established.