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If you were an elephant in the 1700s, you could have roamed across nearly half of Asia and always found suitable habitat where you could live. Today, things are very different.

In a newly published study, University of California, San Diego ecologist Shermin de Silva and her colleagues analyzed land-use changes stretching back centuries to understand just how drastically human activities have shrunk and fractured habitat for endangered Asian elephants. The bottom line is that the elephants’ survival depends on humans finding ways to coexist with them, de Silva writes.

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Jennifer Weeks

Senior Environment + Energy Editor

Habitat loss has driven Asian elephants, like these foraging at a garbage dump in Sri Lanka, into human areas. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP via Getty Images

Human activities in Asia have reduced elephant habitat by nearly two-thirds since 1700, dividing what remains into ever-smaller patches

Shermin de Silva, University of California, San Diego

A new study looks back into history to assess human impacts on the range of Asian elephants and finds sharp decline starting several centuries ago.

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