Similarity in habitat preferences impedes human elephant
Large conservation areas protect charismatic species and epitomize African savannahs, as do rural areas where people and wildlife live sympatrically but not always harmoniously. Incentives to include rural areas into conservation networks are lucrative and promise to improve conservation effectiveness. However, we show that in northern Botswana where a quarter of Africa’s savannah elephants live, people occupy habitats that are sought after by elephants. Elephants trying to access resources in these areas then face increased mortality, particularly in the most suitable habitats. To mitigate this risk, elephants responded by selecting less suitable habitats. Consequently conservation strategies that promote human-wildlife coexistence may prove unsuccessful, particularly when resource competition leads to wildlife mortality. Conservation should ensure that people do not limit wildlife’s access to prime habitat.