Pathfinding elephants are moving through human dominated landscapes, often across international boundaries, thereby playing a vital role in connecting protected areas. Their movements are a call to action to not only understand their spatial requirements but to urgently work towards innovative ways to make people’s livelihoods compatible with conservation outcomes so that coexistence and connected landscapes can prevail. We discuss the first three phases of a long-term strategy to conserve elephant corridors whilst incorporating the socio-economic needs of the people that share the landscape with them. We present a comprehensive satellite-tracking history of elephants across two transfrontier conservation areas (TFCA), represented by Great Limpopo- and Lubombo TFCAs and involving four countries (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Eswatini) to flag where linking corridors exist. We use innovative cafeteria-style experiments to understand which elephant-unpalatable plants would offer lucrative alternative income streams to farmers living in human–elephant-conflict hotspots. The most suitable unpalatable plants are chosen based not only on whether they are unpalatable to elephants, but also on their life history traits and growth prerequisites. We consider a combination of potential economic values (food, essential oil, medicinal and bee fodder value) to ensure that selected plants would accommodate changing economic markets. Lastly, we highlight the importance of combining food security measures with ensuring people’s safety by means of deploying rapid-response units. By implementing these three phases as part of a longer-term strategy, we draw closer to ensuring the protection of bioregions to achieve biodiversity objectives at a landscape scale.
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