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Conservationists strive to create protected zones to protect populations of endangered animals but not all animals are happy in them, according to a new study.

For example, an international research team recently discovered that Asian elephants prefer to live outside – but not too far – from these protected areas, Cosmos Magazine reported.

Researchers tracked the movement of 102 Asian elephants across Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo using more than 600,000 GPS locations taken over a decade. The findings showed that the large mammals preferred to spend half of their time in areas within nearly two miles of the boundaries of the protected zones.

Specifically, the animals would wander in habitats that had disturbed forests and areas of regrowth outside their conservation zones. The team explained that this risky behavior is related to the elephants’ dietary preferences, such as grass, bamboo and fast-growing trees that are more common in disturbed areas.

They noted that the study underscores the need to rethink conservation efforts for elephants even as it does not challenge the effectiveness of protected areas.

“We believe protected areas are the most effective tool for biodiversity conservation in general,” said lead author Benoit Goossens.

Goossens and his colleagues pointed out that the main threat to Asian elephants is conflict with humans, which happens when their habitats overlap with those of people.

They recommended that future conservation efforts should also promote human-elephant coexistence and mitigate conflict between the two species.

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